Tajikistan blocks Facebook, again


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Authorities in Tajikistan have blocked access to Facebook for the second time this year, in order to stop the social network spreading "mud and slander" about ruling figures.

The government's Office of Telecommunications ordered all internet service providers to block the site and by Monday night, Tajikistan's six ISPs and six mobile carriers had complied, The Next Web reported.

The head of the office, Beg Zukhurov, claimed he gave the order in response to public demand.

"I received many calls from citizens of Tajikistan, asking me to shut down this Facebook as a hotbed of slander. Unknown people there insult the leaders of the state," Zukhurov told Russia's RIA Novosti (translation by The Next Web).

What's more, Zukhurov claimed to Reuters, Facebook users are being paid up to $10,000 to post "the stream of mud and slander."

He didn't elaborate on who might be behind these alleged sponsored posts, Reuters said.

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Most observers say the shutdown is more likely the latest episode in Tajikistan's ongoing efforts to stifle dissent.

The Telecommunications Office has formed a "citizens' organization" composed of volunteer IT experts to monitor and report any online content they deem libellious, according to Reporters Without Borders, which wrote to the government in August to complain about the breach of freedom of information.

Eurasia Net says that by now, Facebook is "one of the last remaining places for free and open discussion" in Tajikistan – which might explain why the government also blocked it for a week back in March.

If he's brave enough or foolish enough, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg could potentially attempt to intervene on behalf of Tajikistan's 40,000 registered members and their right to free speech.

"Does Facebook have an owner?" Zukhurov asked Reuters. "I'd like to speak to him. Let him come here and meet me in my office."