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Twitter's Jack Dorsey tweets it up with Iran's President Rouhani

The Twitter co-founder tweets a provocative question to Iran's president and gets a response that could mean a sign of change to come.

Illustration by James Martin/CNET

Twitter was witness to a simple back-and-forth between the social network's co-founder Jack Dorsey and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday. And, despite being a small exchange, it could be a signal of a change to come for Iran's citizens.

Dorsey first tweeted, "Good evening, President. Are citizens of Iran able to read your tweets?" And, in response, Rouhani said, "Evening, @Jack. As I told @camanpour, my efforts geared 2 ensure my ppl'll comfortably b able 2 access all info globally as is their #right."

Newly elected Rouhani has been making waves in his homeland when it comes to social media. Not only is he (or one of his staffers) a fairly active tweeter and Facebooker, he's also announcing geopolitical events via his social-media accounts.

While the same could be said about US President Barack Obama, the big difference here is that social networking is banned for Iranian citizens.

Rouhani's more hard-line predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, instituted the ban on social media in 2009. The Iranian government has also experienced a contentious relationship with news sites and e-mail hosts in the past. Over the last few years, the government blocked access to major international news sites, Google's search engine, and YouTube. Several times last year, Iran even cut off access to the Internet.

Since taking office two months ago, Rouhani has tried to cast himself as a more tech savvy and politically open leader. Recently, there have been several signs that he might be opening up social media and the Internet in Iran. Last month, Rouhani even encouraged his government staff and ministers to join Facebook in an endeavor called government-as-Facebook Friends.

People thought the social-media blockade had finally ended a couple of weeks ago after a technical glitch turned on both Twitter and Facebook throughout the country. However, government officials said it was an error and the blockade was still on. At the time, there was some speculation it wasn't really a glitch, but rather political in-fighting among top Iranian officials.

While Rouhani has attempted to appear more progressive, it's unclear if and when the Internet will become more accessible to Iran's citizens since the country's hard-liners continue to hold a tight rein.