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Iranian Government Strengthens Electronic Curtain

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

Iran has established a cyber army to track dissidents and censor news.

The Iranian regime has taken another step to strengthen the electronic curtain it is attempting to drop around the Iranian people.

The Iranian telecommunications ministry has reportedly announced a ban on the use of foreign email providers such as Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail by banks, insurance firms and telephone operators. Instead they will be required to use domestic providers.

Universities and entities associated with the Iranian government are similarly affected. According to the semi-official Mehr News Agency, Reza Taghipour, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Technology, has said that foreign email hosts are engaged in “transferring information out of the country”, and therefore pose a security threat. In reality, the use of government-approved email providers increases the Iranian regime’s ability to monitor and control what the Iranian people do in cyberspace.

After the massive pro-democracy protests that occurred in Iran in 2009, when the internet -- through email, blogs, and social media -- was used by protesters to spread news and rally support, the Iranian regime has intensified its crackdown on usage of the internet. A cyber army has been established to track dissidents and censor news; scores of bloggers have been arrested; tens of thousands of websites have been blocked; internet speed has been slowed; internet café owners have been forced to acquire and keep the personal information of their customers; and the regime is constructing a national intranet that could serve to limit Iranians’ access to the world wide web.

President Barack Obama has condemned the Iranian government for its attempts to drop an electronic curtain around Iran.

“The Internet restrictions have become so severe that Iranians can’t communicate freely with their loved ones within Iran, or beyond its borders. Technologies that should empower citizens are being used to repress them.

"The United States,” President Obama said, “will continue to draw attention to the electronic curtain that is cutting the Iranian people off from the world. And we hope others will join us in advancing a basic freedom for the Iranian people: the freedom to connect with one another and with their fellow human beings.”