An Iranian court has summoned Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg – who it described as "the Zionist director of the company" – to appear before it, the semiofficial news agency ISNA reported on Tuesday.
The summons is connected with complaints by Iranian individuals, who say Facebook-owned applications Instagram and WhatsApp violate their privacy. The court also ordered the two apps banned, according to the report.
"According to the court's ruling, the Zionist director of the company of Facebook, or his official attorney, must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses," said Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, an Iranian internet official. The summons was issued by an Iranian court in the southern province of Fars.
Facebook is already banned in the country, along with other social websites like Twitter and YouTube. Another Iranian court ordered Instagram blocked over privacy concerns last week.
The case underscores the growing struggle between moderate Iranian president Hassan Rohani's drive to increase Internet freedoms and demands by the conservative judiciary for tighter controls.
Rohani 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," Rohani said last week, according to the official IRNA news agency. "Why are we so shaky? Why don't we trust our youth?"
Hardliners, meanwhile, accuse Rohani of failing to stop the spread of what they deem as "decadent" Western culture in Iran.
Zuckerberg is unlikely to heed the summons. Iran is still under international sanctions over its disputed nuclear activities and it is difficult for U.S. citizens to secure travel visas, even if they want to visit.
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