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Iran judge summons Facebook CEO to court over privacy complaints

TEHRAN, Iran - A judge in southern Iran has ordered Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear court to answer complaints by individuals who say Facebook-owned applications Instagram and Whatsapp violate their privacy, semiofficial news agency ISNA reported Tuesday.

It quoted Ruhollah Momen Nasab, an official with the paramilitary Basij force, as saying that the judge also ordered the two apps blocked. It is highly unlikely that Zuckerberg would appear in an Iranian court since there is no extradition treaty between Iran and the United States. Some Iranian courts have in recent years issued similar rulings that could not be carried out.

Another Iranian court last week had ordered Instagram blocked over privacy concerns. However, users in the capital, Tehran, still could access both applications around noon Tuesday. In Iran, websites and Internet applications have sometimes been reported blocked but remained operational.

Facebook is already banned in the country, along with other social websites like Twitter and YouTube. However some senior leaders like Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are active on Twitter.

While top officials have unfettered access to social media, Iran's youth and technological-savvy citizens use proxy servers or other workarounds to bypass the controls.

The administration of moderate President Hassan Rouhani is opposed to blocking such websites before authorities create local alternatives. Social media has offered a new way for him and his administration to reach out to the West as it negotiates with world powers over the country's contested nuclear program.

"We should see the cyber world as an opportunity," Rouhani said last week, according to the official IRNA news agency. "Why are we so shaky? Why don't we trust our youth?"

Hard-liners, meanwhile, accuse Rouhani of failing to stop the spread of what they deem as "decadent" Western culture in Iran.

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