The Iranian government has blocked the Iranian people from accessing thousands of websites; it has slowed down the speed of the Internet in Iran to a maddening crawl; and it has used the Internet to track down protestors and their families. It has also jailed Iranian bloggers, and given several severely long prison sentences.
Now the Iranian government says it stepping up its efforts to patrol and control the Internet. It has announced the formation of a new cyber police force whose targets specifically include anti-government websites and political dissidents using social networking sites. "Through these very social networks in our country, anti-revolutionary groups and dissidents found each other and contacted foreign countries and triggered riots," Iran's chief police official Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam said, as he announced the launch of the first new cyber police unit. "There is no time to wait," he said. "We will have cyber police all over Iran."
In a speech last year on internet freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the internet the "iconic infrastructure of our age" and said it "stands for connection." She warned of governments who seek break that connection:
"Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world's networks. They've expunged words, names, and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech."
Iran has proven itself to be such a country. As Secretary of State Clinton says, "These actions contravene the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which tell us that all people have the right 'to see, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'
The Iranian government's campaign of internet censorship and surveillance is one more abuse of the fundamental rights of the Iranian people, and it should end. As Secretary of State Clinton says, "No nation, no group, no individual should stay buried in the rubble of oppression. We cannot stand by while people are separated from the human family by walls of censorship. And we cannot be silent about these issues simply because we cannot hear the cries."