[Marxism] The Halal Internet
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 13 08:11:31 MDT 2011
Iran tightens online censorship to counter US 'shadow internet'
Tehran fury at 'internet in a suitcase' prompts upgrade to web
filtering system blocking forbidden websites
by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Iran has stepped up online censorship by upgrading the filtering
system that enables the Islamic regime to block access to
thousands of websites it deems inappropriate for Iranian users.
The move comes one month after the United States announced plans
to launch new services facilitating internet access and mobile
phone communications in countries with tight controls on freedom
of speech, a decision that infuriated Tehran's regime and prompted
harsh reactions from several Iranian officials.
The upgrade had at first appeared as a relaxation of the
censorship machine. Iran's online community said on Monday that
filtering was temporarily lifted for the entire country, giving
users access to banned websites such as Twitter and Facebook. But
hopes for an end to censorship were dashed when news agencies
reported later in the day that the respite was due to the process
of making the upgrade.
Despite the filtering, many Iranians access blocked addresses with
help from proxy websites or virtual private network (VPN)
services. The upgrade is aimed at stopping users bypassing censorship.
More than 5 million websites are filtered in Iran. Media
organisations including the Guardian, BBC and CNN are blocked,
though access to the New York Times website is allowed. On Google,
the Farsi equivalents for words such as "condom", "sex", "lesbian"
and "anti-filtering" are filtered out.
Iran is believed to be worried about the influence of the internet
and especially social networking websites as pro-democracy
activists across the Middle East use them to promote and publicise
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency quoted an unnamed official
as saying: "The ministry of communications and information
technology is strengthening the filtering system and recent
disruptions were the result of this upgrade."
At the same time, Nasimonline.ir, an agency that publishes short
Twitter-style bursts of news, said it had received information
that "a new filtering system that targets Google and Yahoo search
engines" had been installed and tested on Monday.
"I think that the new upgrade in the filtering system is a signal
from Iran that the regime is prepared to stop any attempt by the
US to challenge the country's online censorship," said an Iranian
who spoke to the Guardian by phone from Tehran on condition of
The New York Times reported last month that the Obama
administration is leading a global effort to deploy what is known
as "shadow internet" or "internet in a suitcase" by spending $2m
(£1.25m) on secretive projects to create "independent cellphone
networks inside foreign countries". The aim is to provide services
that allow "wireless communication over a wide area with a link to
the global internet" in support of dissidents in countries that
have tightened their grip on freedom of speech.
In reaction to the US move, Iran's intelligence minister, Heidar
Moslehi, was quoted by Fars as saying: "We had predicted these
actions, such as the internet in suitcase, and we have planned
proper ways to combat them."
In an interview with the semi-official Mehr news agency, Iran's
minister for communications and information technology, Reza
Taghipour, accused the US of "cyber terrorism" for its plans to
launch "internet in suitcase".
In April, the Tehran government announced that it intended to
launch "halal internet", a country-wide intranet and a parallel
network that conforms to Islamic values with the ultimate goal of
substituting for the global internet.
Iran's opposition believe that Iran is buying its filtering
technology from China. In September 2009 Iran's powerful
Revolutionary Guards, a body under the direct control of the
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, purchased 51% of the
Telecommunications Company of Iran, which monitors internet
filtering in the country.
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