Lifting Iran’s Electronic Curtain Means Keeping Up with the Cyber Army | Freedom House

Lifting Iran’s Electronic Curtain Means Keeping Up with the Cyber Army

Azad Tribune - Article 19

by Gigi Alford
Program Officer, Internet Freedom


February 7, 2013

With the upcoming presidential elections in Iran on 14 June 2013, the international community—particularly election monitors and free expression activists—should be very worried about the plight of Iran’s netizens. They rely heavily on circumvention tools, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy websites, to access the tens of thousands of websites blocked by Iran’s centralized filtering system, but observers say this practice is not keeping pace with Iran’s expanding capability for online repression.

Last year, in remarks commemorating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, President Barack Obama referred to Iran’s strict control over what citizens can say and see online as an “electronic curtain” and announced new guidelines to help “American businesses provide software and services into Iran that will make it easier for Iranians to use the internet.”

This announcement occurred just days after Iran’s March 2012 parliamentary elections, when authorities demonstrated their new ability to filter certain internet traffic while allowing approved activity to continue uninterrupted. At the first whiff of pre-election disruptions, authorities blocked all encrypted international traffic, such as Gmail, without the need to shut down encrypted domestic traffic, such as banking, or the entire network.

With the upcoming presidential elections in Iran on 14 June 2013, the international community—particularly election monitors and free expression activists—should be very worried about the plight of Iran’s netizens. They rely heavily on circumvention tools, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy websites, to access the tens of thousands of websites blocked by Iran’s centralized filtering system, but observers say this practice is not keeping pace with Iran’s expanding capability for online repression.

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