[JURIST] An Iranian court has sentenced eight Facebook [corporate website] page administrators to jail for terms between eight and 21 years, Iran's official news agency, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) [official website], reported on Sunday. The defendants were convicted [AP report] of plotting against national security, spreading propaganda against the ruling system and insulting officials, though the Facebook pages in question are unknown. The report states that the defendants were convicted in April. Facebook, as well as other popular social networking sites, is banned in Iran.
Iran has faced criticism in recent years for its increasingly restrictive national internet policies that opponents claim are being implemented to silence popular dissent. In May a judge in the southern Iranian province of Fars ordered [JURIST report] Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear in court regarding complaints that his company's Instagram and Whatsapp applications have violated individuals' privacy. In April Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh [Freedom Now backgrounder] was summoned to court [JURIST report] after posting a video online voicing support for the country's "prisoners of conscience." In January 2012 the daughter of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [BBC profile] was sentenced [JURIST report] to six months in prison, including a five-year ban on "media or other online activities," for her support of the opposition candidate during the 2009 Iran elections. In November 2009 the Iranian government established [JURIST report] a new police unit for combating internet crime, which opposition leaders claimed was for the purpose of cracking down on online dissent.