General

Internet Censorship and Repression in Iran’s Clerical Regime

Iran is one of the countries with the heaviest Internet censorship. Iran's government and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are seeking to block all social media. In 2019, Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran 170 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index

It was only a few months after Khomeini and his cleric regime came to power in 1979 that media censorship began across Iran.

The fundamentalist regime based on the ideology of the Velayat-e-Faghih cannot tolerate any dissident voice and ideas. As a result, it started to suppress all the meetings and demonstrations of other groups.

While the internet found its way in Iran, and more and more the people used it to break the regime’s censorship, the regime in fear of the public consciousness started to censor it. For the first time in 2002, the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei ordered the censorship of the internet. And immediately 450 internet clubs were closed.

In 2004 the regime prevented the work of private ISPs and forced them to merge in the main state ISPs, which are under the control of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

In 2009 after the protests the regime started to censor main social media platforms in Iran, including Facebook and Twitter. And an attack targeting opposition websites began.

In 2011 the regime’s Ministry of Communication prohibited the use of proxies and VPNs and launched the cyber police, known as FATA.

OONI (The Open Observatory of Network Interference), a global observation network created to detect internet censorship, delivered astonishing remarks about Iran’s internet for three years (2014-2017).

According to this report, nearly 900 domains and more than 1000 URLs in Iran are blocked. The notable point is that more than 500 domains belong to news, political, human rights, and social websites. And the main blog platforms, such as WordPress, Blogger, and others are blocked too. And even search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo are filtered, too.

These statistics make it clear that the regime’s main purpose of filtering is preventing people from accessing information providing the truth about the regime and endanger its sovereignty.

Which institutions are running the censorship in Iran?

The internet gateways in Iran are in the hands of the TCI, the Telecommunication Company of Iran. This company is under the administration of the MOIS. This company is also the owner of the Iran Internet Data Company (DCI) which is the main internet provider in Iran.

After 2007 the regime decided to privatize the TCI, and the IRGC bought 50 percent of its shares. This allows the regime to have a free hand in censoring the internet because the IRGC has been the main crackdown entity in Iran since the beginning of this regime.

 

Read More:

Iran’s Government Cut Offs the Internet

 

The suppression of freedom of speech is legalized in Iran. Using phrases like, “threat against national security” or “contradiction with Islamic law” are included in all of the regime’s laws and give the regime the opportunity to suppress freedom of speech under the shadow of the law. And in 2017 the Rouhani government presented a new law of the press which will restrict them more than ever before.

National Internet Plan (YOU), its history and progress

The national internet was announced for the first time in 2005. The goal was to reduce dependency on the World Wide Web.

This network was designed in such a way that it should be finished it three phases:

  • First: the internal internet must be disconnected from the WWW.
  • Second: transferring all Iranian websites to internal servers, which was considered to be finished in 2013.
  • Third: establishing internal management for the national Internet and giving full and complete control to domestic entities.

According to the Harvard Research Center, the Iranian government has invested more than $6 billion in launching the national Internet. This is the largest communication project in the history of Iran.

The government announced the target of the national Internet as reducing global Internet costs, making it safer to connect for the units of an organization or company with higher speed, high-bandwidth at low cost, greater security for banking transactions and sustainable internal communications in the event of an emergency disconnection from the global Internet.

But after the astronomical investments and while more than 15 years have passed since the start of this project, none of these goals have been achieved.

This project has basic weaknesses. For example, while the regime cut off the internet for five days during the November 2019 protests, especially from Google, none of the main internal search engines, including the “Yooz” and the “Parsijoo”, did work and users were forced to type the full name of their targeted website. According to the Harvard Research Center, the regime has investigated $ 1.5 billion for this project.

Until now the internal internet is providing services like the “IGAP”, “Soroush” and “BisPhone” domestic messengers and webmail platforms such as “MihanMail” and “MailFa.” However, these platforms are suffering from many basic technical problems.

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