Two Iranian women surf the Internet at a cafe in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Sept, 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
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Iran should embrace the Internet rather than see it as a threat, President Hassan Rouhani has said, in remarks that challenge hardliners who have stepped up measures to censor the Web.The weekend speech distances Rouhani from rival conservative clerics, some close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who promote censorship as a tool for protecting the 1979 Islamic revolution which brought the Shi'ite Muslim clergy to power.It was also his most forceful signal yet of a break with the social media policy of predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who rounded up bloggers and tightened online controls in an eight-year term, especially after protesters used social media to organise mass street demonstrations in 2009 .Iran has long had a contradictory attitude towards the Internet. Access to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube is blocked for most Iranians, but Khamenei himself joined Twitter and Facebook in 2009 and is now a prolific user of both.Iran's leadership cracked down hard against Internet users in 2009 following Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election that year, when a violent crackdown on street protests led to the worst unrest in the Islamic Republic's history.Iran's Internet users face slow, patchy connections as well as heavy filtering.
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