Iran plans to unplug the Internet, launch its own “clean” alternative

On April 9, 2012 by stratagem

Source: Ars Technica

ran topped a recent list of repressive regimes that most aggressively restrict Internet freedom. The list, published by Reporters Without Borders, is a part of the 2012 edition of the organization’s Enemies of the Internet report.

One of the details addressed in that report is the Iranian government’s bizarre plan to create its own “clean” Internet. The proposed system, an insular nation-wide intranet that is isolated from the regular Internet, will be heavily regulated by the government. According to a report published today by the International Business Times, Iranian government officials have announced that the new system will be ready to deploy within five months.

Reporters Without Borders drew attention to Iran’s national Internet plan when it was first proposed in 2011. In addition to developing its own Intranet system, the Iranian government is also creating its own custom electronic mail service and a national search engine called Ya Haq (Oh Just One) that is intended to replace Google. In order to obtain an account on the state-approved mail service, users will have to register their identity with the government.

Iranian information and communication minister Reza Taghipour has declared that all Internet service providers offering connectivity in Iran will soon be required to convey the national Internet only. The mandate is set to go into effect in August, at which point Iranians will no longer have access to the broader Internet.

The Iranian government has steadily increased the intensity of its Internet censorship efforts. It’s a response to the increasingly important role that the Internet has played in enabling political dissent and unencumbered communication. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently established a Supreme Council of Cyberspace to regulate Iran’s new Internet.

Cleric Hamid Shahriari, who is a member of the council, said the group was “worried about a portion of cyberspace that is used for exchanging information and conducting espionage,” according to an article published last month by the Wall Street Journal. Taghipour cited “unhealthy moral content” and websites that encourage “disunity” and atheism as key sources of concern.

The complaint about espionage is likely a reference to Stuxnet, an unusual computer virus that was designed to sabotage industrial machinery. The virus wreaked havoc on Iran’s controversial nuclear program, reportedly setting it back by as much as two years. The attack proved to be a major embarrassment for the country. Ars Technica was among the news sites banned in Iran after reporting on the incident.

Relevant: 

Jan 5th 2012: Iran ditching the global internet to launch a national internet

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