We have seen our own government and other Western countries moving to exercise greater control over the Internet in recent years — reaffirming the fact that the Internet may be the single most important vehicle of free speech created by mankind. Iran, however, is not to be outdone when it comes to denying liberties. A widespread news report stated that country is about to cut off its entire population from the Internet services on the World Wide Web. Such sites are viewed as polluting the minds of Iranians with unIslamic thoughts and ideas. Now, instead of Google and Gmail, Yahoo and the like, Iranians would have Iran Mail and the “National Internet.” Iranian officials insist that citizens will now receive mail and stories on a “clean Internet” designed and maintained for good Muslims. [UPDATE: The Iranian government issued a statement today responding to the articles on the Iranian internet that specifically denies that it intends to cut off access to the worldwide web]
The man behind this government toward an Islamically correct web is all too familiar to civil libertarians: Reza Taghipour, the Iranian minister for Information and Communications Technology. Taghipour is already individually listed on European sanctions as one of the people behind the deadly crackdown on elections in Iran. The initial report stated that he announced the setting up of a national Intranet and the effective blockage of services like Google, Gmail, Google Plus, Yahoo and Hotmail, in line with Iran’s plan for a “clean Internet.” The Internet was denounced promoting “crime, disunity, unhealthy moral content, and atheism.”
As part of the government control over the Internet, the government is forcing a registration procedure to apply for procuring Iran Mail ID, which mandates authentic information pertaining to a person’s identity, including national ID, address and full name. The government must approve you for you to join the Iranian Internet.
The move shows just how scared governments — both Western and non-Western — are over the uninhibited and free forum created by the Internet. The Iranian mullahs know that their greatest threat is knowledge gained from the free world. What the government refers to as the “scourges” of the Internet is merely code for free expression and free association.
The earlier report stated that the only Iranians who will have access to the foreign sites will be citizens granted such access by being placed on a “white list” set up by the government.
UPDATE: However, the Iranians deny that the worldwide web will be cut off. Instead the Iranian server will run parallel to the worldwide web.
Even with the government statement that the original story was a hoax, it is not clear how much is untrue or the source of the false story. For example, the Iranian regime is indeed establishing a “national information network” to sure as an intranet approved and monitored by the government. Taghipour said the plan would be fully implemented by March 2013. However, he never said that the Internet would be cut off. Yet, the intranet plan still reflects a desire to create an alternative to the worldwide web by the government.
I am particularly interested in the source of the widely reported story. It seems an odd hoax since it was easily denied by Iran, which even denies the quotations by the minister.