In the run-up to the pro-democracy demonstrations called for by Iranian opposition leaders and attended by tens of thousands of Iranians earlier this month, the Iranian government stepped up its efforts to censor cyber communications.
According to the Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters without Borders, the regime increased its blocking of websites and key words; it disrupted mobile phone and text messaging traffic; and it beefed up its jamming of international broadcasts into Iran. Broad-band speed was greatly slowed in major cities, as well.
Reporters Without Borders says that the intensified crackdown started on February 10, in an effort to prevent the organization of pro-democracy rallies inspired by the massive demonstrations in Egypt and to thwart communications about them.
In a recent speech, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the need for a global commitment to Internet freedom to protect human rights online as they should be protected offline:
"The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs, these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on in individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace."
She criticized countries who seek to control and censor the internet, including China, Burma, Vietnam and Iran, where "the authorities block opposition and media websites, target social media and steal identifying information about their own people in order to hunt them down."
The United States, said Secretary Clinton, is committed "to help people get around the filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online. ... It's a struggle, for human rights. It's a struggle for human freedom. And it's a struggle for human dignity."