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After the Green Movement Internet Controls in Iran, 2009-2012

Crossposted from the OpenNet Initiative blog.

This report, titled “After the Green Movement: Internet Controls in Iran, 2009-2012“, details Iran’s increasing Internet controls since 2009, when protests against the victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad rocked the country.

The election protest campaign–dubbed the “Green Movement”–was marked for the high use of social media and other information and communication technologies (ICT) to organize protests and disseminate information. Since the protests, however, the regime has tightened its controls on the use of ICTs while also seeking to use that technology to promote its own national narrative in cyberspace.

While the filtering of web content has continued unabated, Iran has increasingly moved toward political centralization of its control regime, involving members of the country’s religious, administrative, and defence organizations as stakeholders in what the government sees as an ideological threat against the country’s values and national security.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Since the “Green Movement” protests in 2009, the Iranian regime has adopted increasingly complex surveillance and monitoring techniques, complementing Internet filtering with legal frameworks and information manipulation.
  • These techniques of control overlap: Internet filtering is reinforced by a more constricted legal environment and efforts to “nationalize” Iranian cyberspace.
  • ONI testing over the past several years has revealed consistent filtering of websites pertaining to social media, international news channels, non-Shi’ite religions, social and religious taboos, and anything remotely opposed to official government policies.
  • The creation of the Supreme Council on Cyberspace indicates the Iranian government’s interest in centralizing their approach towards the Internet as well as their view of cyberspace as a larger security concern.
  • Internet censorship in Iran—culminating in the National Information Network—is framed as a way to protect the nation’s unique culture and identity and defend against the onslaught of Westernization.
  • The Iranian regime considers cyberspace a geopolitical as much as a domestic policy realm. Surveillance and censorship are simultaneously tools of suppression and a means of national defence.

Read the full report [PDF] (Updated 11 March 2013)