Iran Plans to Implement "Clean Internet" by August 2012 [Update: Govt Denies Intranet Plans]

Update, April 10, 2012: The Iranian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is denying that the government has plans to implement a national intranet. According to the AFP, the Ministry posted a statement on its website (available only inside Iran) claiming that reports about the planned intranet served "the propaganda wing of the West and provid[ed] its hostile media with a pretext emanating from a baseless claim."


Last Thursday, Iranian Information and Communications Technology minister Reza Taghipour announced that the government would set up a national Intranet by August 2012. The Intranet would effectively block services like Google, Gmail, Google Plus, Yahoo and Hotmail, in line with Iran's plan for a "clean Internet." The first phase of the plan will take place next month, as the Ministry blocks access to popular western Internet tools and replaces them instead with Iran Mail and Iran Search Engine. The statement calls for the adoption of the Intranet by all Internet provider companies in the country. "All Internet Service Providers (ISP) should only present National Internet by August," said Taghipour.

The changes may not be that dramatic, given that the country already bans a number of foreign websites. BBC reported today that the London 2012 Olympics website has been blocked within Iran. Visitors who attempt to access london2012.com are instead directed to peyvandha.ir, a site that advertises websites of Iran's official news agencies.

Iran may be receiving outside assistance with this large-scale crackdown on Internet freedom. Last month, it was reported that a large Chinese firm has been cooperating heavily with the Iranian government in providing them with surveillance technology to spy on its citizens' telecommunications and online activity. China's ZTE firm, based in Shenzhen, sold a sophisticated surveillance system with landline, mobile, and Internet monitoring capabilities to the Telecommunications Company of Iran. The deal is estimated to be worth approximately $130 million.

The Iranian government's attempt to create a "Halal Internet" has caught American critics' attention, including that of President Barack Obama. In a speech marking the Persian new year, Obama encouraged more Internet freedom for Iranians so that they may be more globally connected, especially with the United States. "There is no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another," he said. The US Treasury Department has also released a statement, saying, "It is essential that people have the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information through a variety of mediums, including the Internet."

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