Domain name : .ir Population : 66 429 284 Internet-users : 32 200 000 Average charge for one hour’s connection at a cybercafé : 0,95 US$ Average monthly salary : 407 US$ Number of imprisoned netizens : 13
Iran, one of cyber-censorship’s record-holding countries, has stepped up its crackdown and online surveillance since the protests over the disputed presidential reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 12, 2009. The regime is demonizing the new media, which it is accusing of serving foreign interest. While a dozen netizens are serving out their terms in Evin Prison, bold Internet users are continuing to mobilize.
A smooth-running filtering system
Censorship is a core part of Iran’s state apparatus. Internet surveillance has been centralized, thereby facilitating implementation of censorship. Internet service providers rent bandwidth to the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI), controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (RGC). ICT is responsible for ordering the blocking of websites, which ensures a consistent censorship policy using filtering software developed in Iran. Blocking criteria are defined by the Committee in Charge of Determining Unauthorized Websites (CCDUW). The latter is comprised of members from several government branches and the judicial wing: the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the Ministry of National Security and Teheran’s Public Prosecutor.
Censorship is done by combining URL blocking with keyword filtering, as deemed necessary according to changing current events. Among the keywords that have been blocked are the words “woman” in Farsi, “torture,” and “rape,” since August 2009, when one of the opposition leaders, Mehdi Karoubi, condemned the harsh treatment inflicted on incarcerated demonstrators in Kahrizak Prison.
The connection speed for individuals in Iran is slow and limited to 128 kb/s. By order of the Ministry of Communications, households and cybercafés are prohibited from accessing broadband. This technical obstacle limits Internet users’ ability to upload and download photos and videos. Speeds can be even slower in periods of social unrest.
The authorities rely on the Iran Press Law, Penal Code and the Cyber Crime Act of 2009 to prosecute Internet users. Article 18 of the latter provides for a prison term of up to two years and a fine for anyone found guilty of “disseminating false information likely to agitate public opinion.“
Iran applies one of the world’s strictest filtering policies, which have been tightened even more since June 2009. To date, authorities claim to have blocked hundreds of thousands of sites. One thing is certain: thousands of websites and millions of associated pages are now inaccessible in Iran.
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