In an effort to control the flow of information and what sites are visited, Iranian authorities have set up massive firewall. This block is intended to stop the proxy websites that many Iranians use to currently get around their national firewall.
Until recently, Iranian citizens were able to use popular sites Facebook and Google. However, due to the recent security additions these sites are near impossible to access.
The Iranian government has seen the way social media has been able to help many citizen-led revolutions in the past year. During protests in Iran a few months ago, the country’s government shut down Twitter access because they believed protesters were using it to organize on the ground. Many citizens and tech-professionals throughout the world fear that this newly set up censorship will inevitably lead to what Iran calls the National Internet.
The National Internet can be equated to a giant office network. There are certain sites users can and cannot visit. In the case of Iran, the country would block all social media and non-Iranian news sites. In fact, many Iranian bloggers cannot write due to this recent action, and some are afraid to come out in fear of the Iranian Cyber police.
A blogger known only as Maysam (to protect his identity) said in the Washington Post “Basically they are already shutting off access to all interesting Web sites. We will resemble an isolated island in a changing world if this happens.”
Iran claims this is a necessary to make sure its western enemies are not spying on its citizens through the Internet. Claims of assassinations and bombings being carried out by U.S. and Israeli spies have also intensified the situation. Iran has also accused Google and Twitter of helping the U.S. government spy on Iranian citizens.
Both companies have denied such allegations.
Iran tried to stress the fact that there will still allow access to the Internet, only restricting the ‘damaging’ sites. However, what Iran considers a ‘damaging’ site is extremely ambiguous.
The country recently arrested and sentenced to death a Canadian-Iranian web designer, Saeed Malekpour, for designing a website that they claim promotes prostitution. According to Malekpour, all he did was design an upload website and users did the rest. He is currently awaiting death in Iran.
Iranian officials also claim that this is about citizen security and personal information protection.
“[Sites like Facebook and Google] are stealing people’s information and following their own … goals,” said Reza Taghipour, Iran’s Communication and Information Technology Minister, when speaking about foreign governments and online companies in January. “We need [the National Internet] to protect the privacy of families.”
While it is true that Google, Facebook, and Twitter track user information and inputs, it is mainly for the purposes of improving their services. However, it would not be surprising to find out that these companies were providing information to the U.S. government. At this point, anything is possible.
This only goes to show the lengths that Iran is willing to take to keep a tight grip on its citizens. As tensions in the region increase, it is important that they keep their citizens away from the flow of information. Access to news about revolutions around the Middle East would only strengthen the resolve of those in the country that already do not agree with the government, and implant the idea in the heads of those that are blinded by government propaganda.