Iran Creates Stricter Controls in Internet Cafés Ahead of Elections

The Iranian government is stepping up controls on the Internet in the country, just in time for the country's legislative elections in March. New measures have been placed on Internet cafés that will now require users to provide the names of their fathers and their photo IDs along with their Iranian identification numbers. New legislation that went into effect January 18 will also allow cafés to track a users' browsing history during each usage session and will mandate the installation of security cameras to patrol cafés for any "illicit" browsing activity. The International Business Times recalled that opponents to President Ahmadinejad took to the blogosphere to protest his re-election in 2009, so perhaps the regime is taking extra precautions this time around.

All of these measures come at a time when Iran is trying to put into a place a "Halal" Internet. The idea is to create a domestic intranet that would be tightly controlled by the government and would only allow access to sites from nearby countries. The goal? Keep Iranian netizens away from un-Islamic culture and western ideologies that would threaten national values. Like Delhi's High Court decision last week against Google India and Facebook, Iran's government is using China as a role model for censorship. Although the new censorship measures are severe, some are doubtful that they'll actually work in the long run. Charles Arthur of The Guardian UK wrote that already, some Iranians are already trying to find ways to bypass the intranet by using "Internet in a suitcase," a system that allows people to create their own ad-hoc wireless phone networks that reaches satellite providers outside the country.

These technical reinforcements act alongside more active and forceful measures to clamp down on dissidents using the Internet as a mode of expression. Last year, two bloggers who have been detained since 2008 were sentenced to death for expressing anti-state and anti-Islamic sentiments. Just last month, Mohammad Reza Pour Shajari (who also goes by the pen name Siamak Mehr) was slapped with charges of “waging war against God” by criticizing the state on his blog Iran Land’s Report.