RS2: Iran

Iran’s ‘National Internet’ Offers Connectivity at the Cost of Censorship

In the Vice article, ‘Iran’s ‘National Internet’ Offers Connectivity at the Cost of Censorship’ Corin Faife outlines strict internet policies implemented by the Iranian government to limit citizens free expression. The National Internet Project, proposed by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is receiving heavy backlash from human rights group Article 19 believing it to be “wide-ranging and often contradictory” (2). On one hand, the Iranian government is making considerable upgrades to their broadband speeds and expanding telecommunication networks for rural areas, but Faife believes the real goal is to “separate the Iranian internet from the global web—blocking access to external content that might be politically or culturally subversive” (5). This move could allow for “all online communications from within the country to allow for total surveillance” (5). Iranian citizens are already seeing the effects of controlled internet browsing. Government run email providers and search engines along with sluggish access speeds from international websites are what Faife views as “a way to drive Iranian users towards adopting domestic alternatives, with the upshot that they become far easier to monitor” (9). Article 19’s report, Tightening the Net: Internet Security and Censorship in Iran claims the widespread use of surveillance and suppression of foreign internet sites by the Iranian government are “justified by a logic of protecting citizens from surveillance elsewhere” (10). The National Internet Project will not be fully implemented until 2019 giving hope to outside agencies such as Article 19. The spokesperson for the human rights group, David Diaz-Jogeix notes “While we urge internet companies to continue to engage constructively in discussions concerning increasing internet access in Iran, we unequivocally call on them to avoid providing assistance to the Iranian government’s surveillance and censorship projects that would restrict the free flow of information and views online”(14). Many people agree Iran is on the right path to closing the digital divide with the implementation of new technology such as the IPv6 which allows for the establishment of numerous new IP addresses. The real concern is the possibility of complete censorship from worldwide views. Diaz-Joeix believes The National Internet Project can create powerful drawbacks on the Iranian citizens by “creating an all-powerful state that closely monitors its citizens and blocks information from outside sources” (16). Faife sums up the article by noting, most Iranian citizens are web-literate making it very difficult for the government to have complete control over the internet, “But even if filtering and censorship is not total, such a level of intervention into internet access and content can only be a further blow to freedom of expression in the country” (17). While a large portion of the country is now able to consume information through the internet at higher speeds Faife is concerned induvial autonomy will be the price of admission.

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