Iran already has a very strict firewall set up around internet usage in the country, but bloggers have for a while used a workaround for the firewall, being able to sporadically reach pages like Facebook, Gmail and Google Docs. According to the Washington Post, the special connection with which bloggers were able to work around the firewall has recently stopped working. Increasingly, the message, “According to computer crime regulations, access to this Web site is denied” shows up (in Arabic) on pages that bloggers have been trying to reach. The fear is that Iran's “National Internet” may be on the rollout.
Iran's launching a “National Internet”
Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, Thomas Erdbrink says, “The government’s technology officials have announced the construction of a domestic internet network comparable to an office intranet, which would block many popular sites …. Officials stress that there will still be access to the Web — just not to the “damaging” sites. But Iranian internet users and activists fear that the activation of the National Internet will cut them off from the rest of the world, and put them under increased surveillance by authorities.”
Erdbrink also tweeted from his account that Gmail had been blocked before but now that VPNs are working so poorly, it's a real pain. Iran's police chief told the Iranian Labour News Agency that Google is not just a search service, it's a spying tool. Iran’s information minister, Reza Taqipour Anvari, told the the Islamic Republic News Agency that there will soon be a “National Internet” which will give government institutions and companies access to a wider internet but citizens will only be able to receive a 'halal' internet. This 'halal' internet will of course be heavily censored and took $1 billion to set up. This year, an Iranian search engine will be released to replace Google. It will be called, “Ya Haq” which means “Oh Just One”.
The United Nations has declared a cutting off of internet violation of international law. They declared that internet access is now a human right. The law does allow for certain restrictions which are specifically prescribed. The report announcing the law says, “In many instances, states restrict, control, manipulate and censor content disseminated via the Internet without any legal basis, or on the basis of broad and ambiguous laws, without justifying the purpose of such actions. … such actions are clearly incompatible with states’ obligations under international human rights law, and often create a broader ‘chilling effect’ on the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” This means Iran's internet shut off could fall in violations of human rights territory. However, with the ongoing internet censorship in countries like China and North Korea, Iran is likely to continue to censor till stricter international action is taken.