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.
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Filed Under: censorship, filters, iran


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  • icon
    cypherspace (profile), 6 Jan 2015 @ 3:06pm

    Not So Different

    Just a friendly reminder that, like the Iranian government there are religious fundamentalists with tremendous clout with our own government (or are elected officials in our government) here in the US who would like to muck with the Internet because of content that's an affront to their religious beliefs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2015 @ 3:34pm

    Wait, they are censoring "Instragram"? No wonder they are struggling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2015 @ 7:51pm

    Flaunting Not Flouting

    The phrase, "young rich Iranians flouting their wealth" does not make sense. Try "young rich Iranians flaunting their wealth". Check your dictionary. Please fix.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2015 @ 12:58am

    I'm sure Wikipedia is considered a illegal site full of blasphemous material. The longer Iranians are denied access to the largest library in the world, the internet. The further their country will slip into a backwoods stone-age status. While the rest of the knowledgeable, futuristic, world zooms past them.

    Take the technologically advanced Israel and not so advanced Palestine as an example. Iran looks like the latter when compared to other countries with access to the vast knowledge on the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2015 @ 1:52am

    The smart way to do it would be to create laws that force ISP's to censor the net, then hang their boss if it doesnt work as expected.
    It would either result in a perfectly censored internet or no internet at all.

    Also the US would lose the "moral highground" on yet another front.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 7 Jan 2015 @ 5:30am

    Tutorial on how the system works will display scenes copied from the Matrix with Neo's face digitally (and poorly) replaced by some Iranian.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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