In August 2021, Iran’s parliament introduced a plan called the ‘protection of the rights of internet users’, which was considered as a plan for the legal censorship of the internet by the government. This plan was introduced after the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in one of his speeches to the regime’s officials emphasized that the internet is not managed probably and should be controlled more accurately.
These claims came after the bloody November 2019 protests which became a nightmare for the regime, and which changed the country’s structure.
Many of the regime’s officials are warning that the people’s hatred on the internet against the regime is increasing. This plan became public very soon and faced the people’s anger. The truth is that the regime does not have the ability to control, block, or censor the internet.
Many officials are warning about the consequences of such a decision. Therefore, cyberspace has become one of the main challenges for the regime, which is exposing its hands in every repression.
So much so that the parliament speaker Mohamad Bagher Ghalibaf fearing the people’s reaction and the lack of technical possibility was forced to send this plan to the parliament’s research center.
The state-run daily Farhikhtegan while welcoming this decision wrote: “The fact that we intend to threaten and pressure foreign platforms with empty hands without a suitable alternative is neither accepted by society nor logical and technical, and in the current situation, any filtering and restrictions should avoid.”
This daily added: “The existing plan to support cyberspace users – also known as cybersecurity protection plans – is immature and has many pitfalls that cyberspace audiences will certainly not follow, and this is what creates the problem, due to sensitivities. Due to the people’s jobs and their businesses, the government should pay more attention in this regard, but it seems less is happening. It can be said that this is happening many times, and what are the consequences?” (State-run daily Farhikhtegan, December 2, 2021)
The state-run daily Resalat cried out about the regime’s lack of technical abilities and wrote:
“Many virtual technology professionals have emigrated from the country, some who remain are often interested in working in the private sector, and the knowledge of the responsible agencies in this field is low. Non-specialist executives, who have come to power primarily based on political rather than technical expertise, have severely undermined the country’s cyber-governance environment, and some corrupt experts still have large budgets with ideas such as smart filtering. New generations of the Internet and virtual technologies are on the way that makes concepts such as filtering meaningless.” (State-run daily Resalat, December 2, 2021)
The state-run website Khabar-Fori while pointing to the destructive result of this plan on the people’s lives and businesses wrote:
“While people are bent under the burden of inflation and the coronavirus restrictions have overshadowed many businesses in the past year, parliamentarians are seeking to legislate to protect cyberspace users, the idea came as a shock to society. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19 disease, business platforms have been provided in cyberspace and people are afraid that their business will be hit with the approval of the parliament again. (Khabar-Fori, December 1, 2021)
The plan introduced by the regime’s parliament is so risky that the parliament speaker was forced to confront and deny any changes in the country’s internet on state TV due to the people’s angry reactions.
“Be assured that this is not a filtering issue at all. As a representative of the people and a servant of the members of parliament, I said this, and now I make it clear here that there is no such thing. A negative atmosphere has been created. I firmly say that there is no such thing.” (State TV, Channel One, December 1, 2021)
The reason for such a problematic plan even for the regime is clear; it’s enough to just have a look at the latest protests in Iran and everything will become clear.
Khamenei expressed many times his concern about the internet.
“All countries in the world manage cyberspace, but in our country, some are proud that the cyberspace is uncontrolled, while this method is not proudful at all.” (Khamenei.ir, March 1, 2021)
The truth is that the regime’s intended to implement such a plan, but it was unable to do so until now.