Updated 11 a.m.
Iran’s censor is reportedly banning WhatsApp, the popular messaging app Facebook bought for $19 billion three months ago, because Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, is a “Zionist.”
The reason for the ban, according to Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, secretary of Iran’s Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content, “is the adoption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Saturday.
But the ban is the subject of some controversy within the Iranian government. “The government is completely against the ban on WhatsApp,” said Mahmoud Vaezi, Iran’s communications minister, according to Haaretz, citing a story from Mehr, the semiofficial Iranian news agency.
The Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content does not have the power to implement the ban, and WhatsApp continues to work in Iran, for now.
President Hassan Rouhani has promised to ease restrictions on the Internet in Iran, where both Facebook and Twitter are banned. A Twitter account linked to Rouhani retweeted opposition to the ban.
— Meet Iran (@MeetIran) May 3, 2014
In January, Rouhani said that @HassanRouhani, an account that wished Jews a happy Rosh Hashanah and live-tweeted details of a phone call with President Obama, is managed by “friends,” though the account has not been verified as his by Twitter.
Iran blocked WeChat, another popular messaging app, in December and is considering banning other apps, including Instagram, Haaretz said.
Social media played a role in Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution protests against then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Facebook has been blocked almost continually since June 2009.
Zuckerberg has been reticent about his views on Israel. Facebook declined to comment.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a statement made by Mahmoud Vaezi, Iran’s communications minister.