Iran Planning ‘Clean Internet’
Brett Smith for RedOrbit.com
The Iranian government will step up its censorship efforts this summer with a new national intranet that restricts access to services like Google, Yahoo!, and Hotmail, according to an official statement released this week by Reza Taghipour, the Iranian minister for Information and Communications Technology
Iran´s plan for a “clean internet” will cut off millions of its citizens from the rest of the Web by mandating that “(a)ll Internet Service Providers (ISP) should only present National Internet by August,” Taghipour said.
The International Business Times reports that the government already levies heavy fines and penalties for Iranian ISPs if they fail to comply with the government filter list and has shut down the internet a few times this year.
Other nations will be waiting to see if the Iranian intranet, nicknamed the ℠Halal Internet´, is successfully implemented, especially countries like China that are looking to censor what their citizens have access to.
Iran plans to replace the popular sites with services of their own, such as ℠Iran Mail´ and ℠Iran Search Engine.´ An application for a government run email account already be seen at mail.iran.ir. The site requires applicants to submit their name, postal address, and current email in exchange for an official state email account.
The movement known as the Arab Spring is the likely impetus for Iran to roll out this virtual island. Egypt responded to last year´s protests by shutting down internet access for five days. The Egyptian government felt social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were organizational and promotional tools for its opposition and decided that preventing internet access would tamp down anti-government communications. Other countries have taken similar steps in combating protests such as stopping the flow of text messages. The media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has spoken out against these kinds of actions.
“Shutting down the internet is a drastic solution that can create problems for authorities and can hurt the economy. Slowing the Internet connection speed right down is more subtle but also as effective as it make it impossible to send or receive photos or videos. Iran is a past master at this,” a March article on the groups official website reads.
Iran has prosecuted people in the past for using the internet to distribute content it deems unacceptable. In 2008, Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian resident, was arrested while visiting his ailing father in Iran. The computer programmer who developed a photo sharing website was charged with “designing and moderating adult content websites,” “agitation against the regime,” and “insulting the sanctity of Islam.” He was sentenced to death in October 2010.
In a post on Malekpour´s Facebook page, his sister wrote, “Saeed´s case file was sent to the execution of sentences office even though his lawyer never reviewed the case file beforehand.”
Some Iranians are currently engaged in a subversive game of chance in trying to circumvent their country´s internet censors. Many use proxy servers and other tools to access blocked websites. Experts believe this new internet would give the government a sizeable advantage when chasing after these so-called Iranian hacktivists.