If you think anti-piracy legislation like SOPA and Spain’s so-called Sinde law are as far-reaching as it gets, you obviously don’t live in Tehran. Well aware of the disruptive threat to its power posed by the Internet, the Iranian government is beginning to implement a plan that would get rid of it all together.
Web censorship in the Islamic republic is nothing new, but this latest initiative cranks things up quite a few notches and paves the way for a government-approved domestic intranet that will be completely cut off from the public World Wide Web we all know and love. Iranians are already reporting painfully slow Internet connections and difficulty accessing certain sites or using VPNs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Soon, Internet cafes in the country will be required to videotape all Web users and gather personal information about them.
The Iranian government is, of course, no stranger to the Internet’s irritating ability to help citizens organize, communicate and document what’s going on around them, things that were much more easily controlled in the pre-Web media landscape. It was via the Web and social media that activists planned and publicized protests about the outcome of the country’s 2009 election. Since then, the government has watched as Web-fueled protests have broken out across the Middle East and North Africa, toppling a few regimes along the way.
If the world felt like a safer place to autocratic rulers before the Internet came around and ruined everything, what better solution is there than to just strangle the darn thing to death?
That appears to be what the Iranian government is going for. This week, the government began testing a closed, domestic intranet that “will insulate its citizens from Western ideology and un-Islamic culture, and eventually replace the Internet,” the Journal reported. The end result would be not unlike the situation in North Korea, where the Internet as we know it is not accessible to most of the public, much of which is unaware it exists.
The recent clampdown begins just a few months ahead of the country’s next parliamentary elections, which are already a source of controversy and protest.
Will this plan work? Unlike the citizens of North Korea, Iranians are already accustomed to having access to the Internet, even if it is limited and monitored. Businesses rely on it just like they do anywhere else, so shutting it down could add more economic strain to a society already facing sanctions from the West.