Iran's New 'Smart' Internet Censorship Efforts Still Aren't Particularly Smart
from the yeah,-that'll-work dept
Over the years Iran’s ham-fisted approach to Internet censorship has offered no shortage of comic relief, whether it’s their war on e-mail, their declarations that 3G cellular technology is an “immoral” damnation, or the fact their Internet filters have censored the government’s own tirades against getting around filters. With the election of marginally more moderate President Hassan Rouhani there’s been some improvement made in Iran’s absurd Sisyphean assault on the Internet and free speech, but progress has unsurprisingly been slow.
When running for election Rouhani made numerous public proclamations that Internet filtering doesn’t work, given the ability to use VPNs to bypass most filters. Rouhani also took things one step further, admitting such censorship only cultivates a broad distrust between the public and the government (who knew?). Now that Rouhani’s in office, Iran is apparently taking baby steps toward sensibility by moving away from wholesale blocking of websites, to what they’re calling more selective “smart filtering” of content:
“Presently, the smart filtering plan is implemented only on one social network in its pilot study phase and this process will continue gradually until the plan is implemented on all networks,” Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said, according to official news agency IRNA…”Implementing the smart filtering plan, we are trying to block the criminal and unethical contents of the Internet sites, while the public will be able to use the general contents of those sites,” Vaezi told a news conference.”
What kind of “criminal and unethical” content are we talking about? While the program is only being trialed for Instragram at the moment, such “smart” filtering includes blocking Instragram accounts like @RichkidsofTehran, which featured photos of young rich Iranians flaunting their wealth. Meanwhile, while Reuters suggests the program could involve lifting outright bans on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, several regional reports state that those bans are going nowhere, suggesting this isn’t as dramatic a step forward as some had hoped.
Obviously concern persists that Iran will continue to make cognitively-incoherent decisions when it comes to filtering out entirely harmful content or political commentary, and that the country will continue its war on VPNs and other circumnavigation techniques. On the bright side, plans by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Iran to build their own Internet appear to have been put on the hold for the moment while the country works out the kinks of their still not-particularly-smart Internet filtering efforts. The complete smart filtering program (whatever it actually winds up looking like) is expected to be implemented fully by June 2015.