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Iran's Fledgling National Internet


Iranian technicians monitor data flow in the control room of an internet service provider in Tehran, February 15, 2011

The Iranian regime promised to tighten the electronic curtain it is drawing over the country by creating its own parallel, national internet.

Not content with creating a cyber army to track Iranian citizens’ use of the internet; arresting and imprisoning bloggers whose democratic views are deemed security threats; requiring internet café owners to collect patrons’ personal information; blocking millions of websites and criminalizing the use of anti-filtering tools, the Iranian regime promised to tighten the electronic curtain it is drawing over the country by creating its own parallel, national internet.



According to a new security research report from the University of Pennsylvania, the Iranian regime has laid the technical foundation for just such an online network that will be separate from the world-wide Internet and far easier to control. Evidence that the work on such a network is proceeding apace also came from Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Reza Taghipour. He announced recently that before the end of September, “about 42,000 government offices will have their internet networks transferred to the national network.” The availability of the new network for general public’s use, he said, is not part of this phase. The implication is it will be part of a future one.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that in the 21st century, people increasingly turn to the internet “to conduct important aspects of their lives,” and that the international community has a duty to make sure that a person’s fundamental human rights -- like freedom of expression, religion and assembly, as well as the right to work for social and political change -- are as respected online as they should be offline.

She also made clear that failing to do so, and allowing governments to isolate their citizens from the global internet will diminish the internet for everyone:

“Fragmenting the global internet by erecting barriers around national internets would change the landscape of cyberspace. In this scenario, the internet would contain people in a series of digital bubbles, rather than connecting them in a global network. Breaking the internet into pieces would give you echo chambers rather than an innovative global marketplace of ideas.”

The Iranian people, like people everywhere, deserve to have their freedoms sustained and supported in cyber space as well as the physical universe. Confining Iranians to a controlled digital bubble is an affront not only to their individual rights but a blow to people everywhere.
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