[Iran] is developing “intelligent software” that aims to manipulate, rather than fully control, citizens’ access to social networks. Instead of blocking Facebook, or Twitter, or even Google, the regime… will allow controlled access to those services. As Iranian police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam put it to Iranian local media, cheerfully: “Smart control of social networks will not only avoid their disadvantages, but will also allow people to benefit from their useful aspects.”…
…[T]he “intelligent software” announcement is itself revealing: It suggests the increasing normalization of censorship — and, more specifically, the increasing normalization of strategic censorship.
This is the highly effective Chinese model put to use by another regime: Block content if you must, but monitor content first of all. Allow your citizens to indict themselves with the freedom — “freedom” — you give them. And that is, as a strategy, very likely the future of repression — one in which access to the web won’t just be the black-and-white matter of blocked vs. not , but rather something more insidious: curtailing Internet freedom by the very illusion of granting it. As Iran’s Moghadam noted, “Smart control of social networks is better than filtering them completely.” What’s scary is that he’s probably right.
Megan Garber, The Atlantic. The Age of Surgical Censorship.
Meantime, Iran has cut off access to most Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that its citizens use to get around government filters.
In announcing the move, Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard, head of parliament’s information and communications technology committee, told the Mehr news agency, “Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked. Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used,” according to Reuters.
Iran is reportedly in the process of creating a “Halal” Internet, or a countrywide intranet, that is closed off from the rest of the Web.
The decadence and corruption associated with [Rightel’s] use outweighs its benefits. It will cause new deviances in our society, which is unfortunately already plagued with deviances.
Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi in a fatwa against Rightel, a 3G mobile operator that’s bringing video calls to Iran. AL Monitor, Fatwa Issued Against 3G Internet Operator in Iran.
FJP: A second Ayatollah says the video calls “jeopardize the public chastity”.
A petition signed by some residents in the city of Qom says that services like Rightel are a part of “enemy culture” and “facilitate access to sin and decadence”.
Via the Washington Post:
Iran has arrested 14 journalists for alleged cooperation with foreign-based Persian-language media organizations, several chief editors of Iranian outlets said Monday.
The arrests signal a major escalation in a press crackdown that reflects Iran’s zero tolerance for those who work with dissident media or outlets considered hostile to the regime.
Via the New York Times:
None of the arrests were reported by the raided organizations themselves. Some Iranian journalists said the omissions appeared to reflect fears of further antagonizing the Revolutionary Guards and affiliated security forces whose loyalties lie with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Mehr news agency said the arrested journalists had been accused of “collaborating with some of the Persian-language foreign media” — apparently an allusion to the Persian services of both the BBC and the Voice of America. The Fars news agency, without citing any sources, said the suspects had tried to contact the foreign media and had sought training on photography and filming with cellphone cameras. “Moreover, they wanted to learn how to assemble the pieces and send them to the BBC,” Fars said.
Via the Committee to Protect Journalists:
CPJ ranks Iran as the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, with 45 behind bars in 2012, according to its prison census conducted on December 1.
As the Washington Post notes: “Since 2000, Iran’s judiciary has shut down more than 120 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities.”
On March 1, parts of the BBC were unable to access e-mail and other internet services, possibly due to an attack caused by its systems being overwhelmed by a flood of external communication requests.
Recent attempts were also made to disrupt the Persian Service’s London phone-lines through multiple automatic calls and to jam two BBC Satellite feeds into Iran.
Though Director General Mark Thompson would not comment on the details of these attacks, he did write a blog post last month on interference and harassment of BBC Persian service by the Iranian authorities.
via BBC News:
The revelations follow Reporters Without Borders “Enemies of the Internet” report which was released at the start of the week.
The free-speech lobby group reported that Iran and some of the other countries on its register “censor internet access so effectively that they restrict their populations to local intranets that bear no resemblance to the world wide web.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard created a “cyber army” in 2010. Hundreds of net users have been arrested and some even sentenced to death.