An Iranian court in the southern province of Fars has opened a case against social media sites WhatsApp and Instagram, both of which are owned by Facebook, over concerns of privacy breaches, Reuters reports. The judge has also for some reason decided to summon Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to his court, for perhaps no reason other than the opportunity to refer to him as the company’s “Zionist director” to his face.
“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, according to state news agency ISNA, referring to Zuckerberg’s Jewish background.
Iran banned WhatsApp earlier this month, also citing prominently Zuckerberg’s Jewish roots in their decision. Facebook is officially banned in Iran, along with Twitter and YouTube, though many Iranians are still able to access the sites. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, maintains an active official Facebook page.
According to the AP, the summons is mostly bluster. “It’s highly unlikely that Zuckerberg would appear in an Iranian court since there is no extradition treaty between Iran and the United States. Some Iranian courts have in recent years issued similar rulings that could not be carried out.”
Zuckerberg’s Jewishness has been connected to his company’s actions before, if less straightforwardly than in Iran. In February, a German newspaper published a cartoon illustrating Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, depicting Zuckerberg as a hook-nosed octopus. The cartoonist said he was shocked anyone misread his caricature as anti-Semitic.
Update: Iran has denied the summons, Al-Monitor reports: “Shiraz Chief Prosecutor Ali Alghasi Mehr told the Islamic Republic News Agency that the story of Zuckberg’s summoning, which made international news, is not true. However, he added that there are “private complaints” of privacy issues with respect to pictures and videos shared on Facebook and its other social media platforms Instagram and WhatsApp.”
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Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.