Iran: WhatsApp Banned Because Zuckerberg Is an 'American Zionist'

May 05, 2014 05:55 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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The popular messaging service WhatsApp has been banned in Iran because of its acquisition by Facebook. Iranian officials have declared Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to be an "American Zionist," reported.

Zuckerberg's ubiquitous social network purchased WhatsApp for some $19 billion in late February, marking the biggest-ever startup sale in history.

The messaging app, which recently hit half a billion users, is now verboten in Iran entirely due to its new connections with Zuckerberg.

"The reason for this is the assumption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist," Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, head of the country's Committee on Internet Crimes, said in a statement, according to Fox News.

Protestors in Iran have been using social media since summer 2009 to connect with one another and disagree with the country's regime in a safer space. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as blogging sites have been important tools for these activists, who are in danger from the government.

Iranian authorities arrested 35-year-old blogger Sattar Beheshti in October 2012, following his online posts that openly criticized the regime. Soon after, Beheshti was found dead in his prison cell. While the government contradicts it, he is believed to have been tortured to death.

Officials in Tehran are fearful of social media's power, an Iranian blogger told Fox News.

"The Revolutionary Guard sees these social sites as a major threat because there's an appeal for young people and the government worries about the exchange of information," said the blogger, who asked not to be identified. "(Supreme Leader) Khamenei and his cronies, caught on to the power and potential of these sites after the (Green Revolution) uprisings."

Rumors are swirling in Iran that the regime could next crack down on social media applications including Instagram, Facebook, Viber and Tango. While the government doesn't yet have plans to ban these sites, it could happen in the future, said censorship official Khoramabadi, according to Fox News. 

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