Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iran's Internet censorship system

Thanks to John Unruh-Friesen, who teaches at Hopkins HS in Minnesota, for pointing this out. I had to go to the source and choose to enlarge the chart in order to read it, but it offers a good way to understand the regime organization. It also illustrates the complexity of the process of censoring the Internet.

Iran’s Web censors vs. Google Reader
Google’s much-dreaded announcement on the coming demise of Google Reader has alarmed users in Iran — and drawn attention to the scale and complexity of online censorship there. As Quartz’s Zach Seward explained in a great post yesterday, Google Reader is one of the few ways Iranians can access Web sites blocked in Iran.

"Many RSS readers, including Google’s, serve as anti-censorship tools for people living under oppressive regimes. That’s because it’s actually Google’s servers, located in the U.S. or another country with uncensored internet, that accesses each feed. So a web user in Iran just needs access to google.com/reader in order to read websites that would otherwise be blocked."…

How Iran censors so much of the Web, and who actually does the dirty work, is not entirely clear. According to Reporters Without Borders and the University of Pennsylvania’s Iran Media Program, the Iranian Internet is watched by a number of overlapping regulatory bodies, some of which ultimately report to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The state’s largest Internet service provider, Data Communication Company of Iran, is directly overseen by the Revolutionary Guard, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). All Internet Service Providers (ISPs), whether they’re publicly or privately owned, must buy bandwidth from the Data Communications Company of Iran — which requires that the ISPs filter for blacklists, keywords, URLs and IP addresses, as well as any content that “disrupts national unity,” “stirs pessimism” or undermines religious leaders.

Both the Iranian police and the Revolutionary Guard monitor the Internet for dissent, as well. RSF reports that 46 journalists and “netizens” are currently in jail.

At the very top of the food chain, the Supreme Council on Cyberspace sets the country’s cyber policies, while the Committee Charged with Determining Offensive Content sets the list of sites to block…

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