Iran Denies Plans to Censor Internet

Dennis Faas's picture

Iran's government has dismissed reports that it intends to block all Internet access for its citizens, starting in August.

Spokespeople claim the shutdown reports stem from an April Fool's joke. Yet at least one part of the story appears to be true.

The allegations of a coming shutdown are made by Reporters Without Borders, an international media and free speech advocacy group that in recent years has turned its attention to online censorship.

Intranet Could Replace Internet

According to Reporters Without Borders, Iran plans to simply cut all public access to the global Internet for its people. In its place, the country will create its own online system.

This would effectively be a giant version of the private intranets (internal networks) that some large corporations set up so employees can communicate electronically without offering access to outsiders.

Not only would such a plan mean Iranians couldn't access the world wide web, it would force them to use a limited search engine. That could potentially stop them from accessing information posted on the national intranet, but objected to by the government.

Some experts are suggesting that Iranians would also have to use government-approved email services, accessible only by registering with officials. This would make anonymous email impossible. (Source:

Government Calls Report a Hoax

The Iranian government has responded to these claims by saying the Internet blocking rumor is based on an interview with Iranian communications minister Reza Taghipour that was actually an April Fool's Day gag.

According to the government, the idea of putting such a scheme in place by August is part of that same joke. (Source:

Iran doesn't deny it is working on a "national information network", which it hopes to have up and running by March 2013.

But officials there aren't directly addressing the question of whether they will indeed block public access to the world-wide Internet, and allow some new system to become the only way for people to get online.

Censorship Already Commonplace

Iran already carries out a program of censorship of foreign websites. For this, it uses a variety of tactics: at times blocking access to email and social networking services, at other times making them so slow as to be unusable.

Another censorship tactic is to employ technical measures to make accessing any encrypted websites impossible.

Blocking Internet access inside Iran could also be used as a security measure for the Iranian online system, which is still recovering from malware specially designed to damage nuclear computer systems.

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