The Iranian regime’s state-run media recently published a letter that had been addressed to the regime’s so-called ‘Hijab and chastity directorate of the interior ministry’, requesting the implementation of smart filtering of internet access to inappropriate content. This letter has been signed by Mohsen Khaki, who appears to be the advisor of the regime’s interior minister and the head of this peculiar directorate.
Khaki requested that the regime’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology of Iran (ICT) implement this plan as soon as possible to prevent the growth of liberal culture in the society. The letter emphasized that the ICT must facilitate the situation for those who seek to prevent the expansion of liberal culture.
Smart filtering is a proposed system to remove inappropriate content in cyberspace from the point of view of the medieval ideology of the regime.
Originally, this project was proposed after the regime’s judiciary had asked the government to block communication software that violated the so-called Islamic laws. As an alternative to blocking this software, the regime proposed smart filtering.
According to the state media, this project faced serious criticism from the start owing to technical reasons, including encryption used in communication software, and was considered impossible by experts. The regime’s ICT at the time of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency had previously tried to implement this plan with an investment of 200 billion rials, with the system projected to be operational by the end of June 2014., Due to the regime’s technical weaknesses, however, the plan was never carried out.
In an interview in January 2013, Rouhani’s Minister of Culture Ali Jannati said, “If this software is used, we should use smart methods to filter the harmful ones, but it is wrong to block a highway due to the violation by two nobles.”
The original plan predicted that “when dealing with a page, instead of filtering the entire address, this system blocks a part of it, and access to other pages is free. Also, in the initial plan, it was anticipated that distinction would be made between people’s access according to their age, job, and expertise. To implement this function, it was necessary to recognize the identity of people.”
In other words, on the pretext of filtering, the regime was aiming to obtain the identity of the people online, their desired environments, and political and social orientations.
At that time, the regime’s ICT considered the optionality of encryption in Instagram web communications, but when they started a smart filtering plan on this network, some of its pages were unavailable.
A while later, the Associated Press reported that Instagram had begun to encrypt the communication between smartphones and the company’s servers, and approximately 983 pages related to Western singers and actors that were previously blocked by the regime were accessible again.
The regime claimed to prevent ‘perversion’, but the truth is that the regime is living in fear of the growing popularity of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and the Resistance, which is symbolized in the actions of its Resistance Units.
Morteza Brari, an ICT deputy minister, estimated that the cost of this project stood at 200 billion rials in 2014, while another regime official announced that the contracts concluded in the field of filtering at around 110 billion rials.
In September 2014, the public relations department of the regime’s National Center for Cyberspace introduced the Cyberspace Research Institute of Beheshti University and the Islamic Propaganda Organization (Tebian Information Institute) as the primary implementers of the project.
Eighteen months after the start of the project, and after failing to achieve the set goals, the regime’s ICT invited the regime’s institutions to smart filtering, stating, “It is hoped that this issue will be pursued by academics, and we do not have any financial restrictions in this work.”
Due to the encryption of data exchanged in communication software, it is technically impossible to implement this system, and after several years, which explains why it has not been put into action. However, due to the regime’s critical situation and its need to step up the atmosphere of repression, the regime is trying everything in its power to cut off the connection between the Resistance and the people. Therefore, it has insisted on implementing this project again, regardless of the uncertainty of the outcome.