In Iran, Tyranny Extends to the Internet

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 12, 2012

No surprise, of course, but still very worrisome:

Whenever Maysam, a prominent Iranian blogger, connects to the Internet from his office in the bazaar, he switches on a special connection that for years would bypass the Islamic republic’s increasingly effective firewall.

But recently the software, which allowed him and millions of other Iranians to go online through portals elsewhere in the world, stopped working. When it sporadically returns, speeds are so excruciatingly slow that sites such as Facebook and Balatarin.com – which evaluates unofficial news and rumors in Farsi — become unusable.

“There has been a change,” said Maysam, who spoke on the condition his last name not to be used out of fear of being summoned by Iran’s cyber police. “It seems that the authorities are increasingly getting the upper hand online.”

Having seen social media help power uprisings across the Middle East, Iran’s leaders are trying to get control over what is uploaded, posted and discussed on the Internet. And after a slow start, authorities are becoming more and more successful, Iranian Internet users say.

Many fear that the disabling of the software used to bypass the state-run firewall heralds the coming of what authorities have labeled the National Internet. The government’s technology officials have announced the construction of a domestic Internet network comparable to an office intranet, which would block many popular sites. They have hinted the National Internet can be launched at any time, and have said it will gradually start working over the coming three years.

So, it is not enough for the regime in Iran to run roughshod over the rights and liberties of the Iranian people. Iran has to become a second Hermit Kingdom as well. Incidentally, this post is dedicated to any who wonder why I often state that the Iranian people are so much better than their political leadership class could ever hope to be.

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