October 21, 2017
The Iranian regime attempts to control the flow and consumption of information into the country. Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, believes the Internet is “used by the enemy to target Islamic thinking.” Control of the information and news available to the public is believed to facilitate the regime’s hold over Iranian society.
However, the growth of the internet and social media have challenged the Iranian regime. Iranians are able to utilize virtual private networks (VPNs) to sidestep censorship, as well as encrypted social media platforms to communicate and organize. Recently, social media services to locate have been required to locate their servers inside Iran, in an effort to curb this activity.
To combat media independence, in move that bodes poorly for Internet freedom in Iran, the Iranian regime wants to implement a strategy that combines existing press regulations with new laws to govern media.
Gerdab.ir, a website run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is dedicated to cyber issues, has published the outline of the strategy.
The Iranian regime appears to justify its control over the media by saying that it is ethe regime’s role to define the parameters of acceptable culture. Additionally, it is expected that a common law to govern social media will be more efficient than the patchwork approach heretofore employed by the regime.
The outline of the new legal framework seems to promote the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to the detriment of the Passive Defense Organization, the subdivision of the IRGC which traditionally oversaw Iranian cyber defense. However, in terms of operations, this does not mean a disempowerment of the Passive Defense Organization, but rather a diminishment of its influence in shaping policy.
In fact, the need for greater internal monitoring most likely means further empowerment and resourcing of the Passive Defense Organization.
It has been suggested that the clerical regime wants to revive the idea of a national intranet, one that is cut-off from the rest of the world — an unpopular proposal a decade ago in Iran. At that time, a national intranet was not workable. However, regime might try again, by using new technologies and new regulations, such as the requirement that services base their equipment inside Iran.
Iran regime’s desperate new attempt to unplug itself from the rest of the world appears to be more serious than it has been in the past but is doomed to failure as well.