After nearly four years, my facebook account was disabled without prior notice. Certain people blame it on the Iranian regime's agents, arguing that in recent weeks other political activists have had their facebook accounts disabled as well; however recently I received a message from dogmatic Mousavi supporter who happily announced that my account was disabled after they reported it to the site’s administration.
As a result, I have lost all my contacts, notes, photos, videos, groups as well as audio files, all of which were posted on an account which had become a source of news and analysis for many Iranian activists as well as international journalists. As a journalist, losing contact with my nearly 3000 friends, most of whom fellow journalists, bloggers and activists, is a real disaster and has greatly affected my professional work especially in regards to my Iranian friends as I was depending on my facebook account as a means of communicating with activists and colleagues inside Iran.
On May 19, in the middle of the night, I was unexpectedly logged off my facebook account by system. I logged backed in and changed my password. A few hours later, when I tried to log in to my page, I got a message informing me that my account had been disabled.
This is a tactic often used by Sabzollahis (fanatic Mousavi supporters) as well as Hezbollahis (government supporters); using proxies or other similar software to hide their IP addresses, they mass report a facebook or Youtube account, under several fake IDs. Unfortunately, since Facebook and Youtbe do not have Persian speaking experts to check the content of reports, the mere number of reports convinces them of the seriousness of the matter, leading to many accounts being unjustly removed or disabled.
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There have been other cases where an article written by Nabavi has led to open threats by his fans against opposition (the article acctulay wrote against me), websites or individuals. One example was when a group of Iranians protesters removed the Islamic republic’s flag at its embassy in The Hague replacing it with a flag with a picture of Neda Agha Soltan on it. I reported the news on the Freedom of Expression website. Nabavi wrote an insulting article on the Jaras website, called opposition "belie", mentioning me, insulting and condemning the protesters. The article sparked a strong reaction among the Iranians and as many as 1000 joined a facebook page condemning Nabavi’s article. The facebook page then came under threat by Sabzollahis and a few of the pages administrators had their accounts reported and disabled.
I have written to facebook on several occasions explaining that disabling my account is a clear violation of freedom of expression. I have received to replies to my letters, both of which in form of prewritten forms citing violation of the site’s rules as the reason for my account being permanently closed.
I strongly believe that such actions by Sabzollahis are no different than Hizbollahis in Iran. Many of my colleagues in Iran are in jail, in hiding or simply afraid to add me again to the list of their friends. I am truly disappointed that as a result of the closure of my account I have lost contact with my friends as well as the links that had been accumulated on the account before it was disabled.
In the past I had repeatedly been the target of regime’s agents and hackers who had tried everything ranging from making an account with my name to hacking into my emails. The fact that I have now become the target of similar tactics by the other wing of the regime (reformists), is clear proof that they are no different than their rivals when dealing with their critics. I am also sure that with or without facebook, my fight for freedom of expression in Iran will continue.
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My Appeal to Facebook:.
from Omid Habibinia
date Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 4:05 PM
subject MY ACCOUNT
Dear Madam / Sir,
On May 19, 2010, I was logged in and using Facebook when suddenly I got logged off by the system. I was cautious of hackers and spies so I immediately changed my password and then I logged back in. A few hours later, I was not able to log in anymore. Then I tried to get help from Facebook after about 10 days, I received a message from Facebook informing me that my account has been disabled for violating website regulations. I find this action strange and unacceptable. I am a journalist with 20 years of experience. For most of my life I have been fighting for freedom of expression in Iran. I have committed no offense, unless it is considered an offense to express my political opinion or defend myself against aspersions.
The issue here is that some individuals who are supporters of the Islamic Republic regime, even if indirectly, are upset with my writing pieces. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that my Facebook profile content has alerted supporters of the regime. On February 2009, a regime agent created a fake account using my name and proceeded to add my friends, and when they accepted, he asked them strange questions. I reported the matter to Facebook and the account was deactivated.
In this case, I attempted to contact Facebook but received no response. Then my friends informed me that somebody on a another Iranian journalist who supportes a wing inside of regime, had requested on his Facebook wall for his fans to "report" my Facebook account. The mentioned journalist also wrote a Facebook note about me and spread many lies. I had no way to respond to the note but get disabled!
It is reported that a significant number of Facebook accounts belonging to other political activists and bloggers have also been disabled in the past few weeks. Accounts are disabled because 20 to 30 users at one time misuse the "report" option. At times, these same people make open threats in order to silence us.
I had 3,000 friends on my 4 year old Facebook. Most of them were colleagues. I had many notes, groups, photos, video clips, and used several applications. Facebook for me as a journalist was an invaluable online outlet. I used Facebook to spread news from inside Iran and to communicate with activists, bloggers, and journalists. My account was four years old. I am requesting from you to return my account to me so I can continue with my daily tasks on Facebook.
I strongly believe that Facebook should take responsibility for this unjust action to avoid falling into the trap of supporting members and supporters of the Islamic Republic of Iran; a regime that has clearly demonstrated, especially in the past year, that it will suppress any voice that challenges. I also recommend that , use a Persian speaker expert and investigate the misuse of the "report" option, a tactic used against freedom of expression and journalists simply for doing their job.
I look forward to hear from you