Information Warfare: Ayatollahs Versus The Internet

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April 10, 2007: The free exchange of information and ideas has always been a threat to tyrants, and the ayatollahs who rule Iran are no exception. In 2002 they began to impose restrictions on Internet usage. They started by filtering content, and instituted a systematic policy of blocking websites which they believed were un-Islamic or anti-government (which in what in a Moslem theocracy, amounts to the same thing). Of course hackers often found ways around these obstacles. As a result, there has been a Darwinian battle between the censors and the internet users, a development not unknown in other parts of the world, including the U.S. (talk to anyone who's responsible for monitoring the content of school or library systems with access to the internet.)

Recently, the ayatollahs have begun to notice blogging. This may seem to be a belated development, given that the blog phenomenon has been growing for a half-dozen years, but then, most of the ayatollahs would rather be living in the first Moslem century - roughly the 600s of the Christian reckoning, and may not pick up on current events readily. Now the ayatollahs have cracked down. As of March 1st, all Iranian bloggers, and all websites, are required to register with the government and comply with a complex set of restrictions that include bans on criticism of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 "Islamic Revolution," various senior government officials, specific government policies, Islam and Islamic practices, whether in general or in particular, and, of course, sex.

Many Iranian bloggers and webmasters have publicly indicated that they will not comply with the registration requirements, thus risking fines or jail. As the government has been slow in establishing the bureaucratic apparatus to administer the registration program, no one so far seems to have been penalized for non-compliance.

 


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