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Iranian regime gauges internet freedom

Iranian regime, Iran, Bill for Protection of Cyberspace Users, Cultural Commission, Instagram, Internet, Twitter

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Iranian regime gauges internet freedom

Iranian regime is set to formulate a new law with the evil desire of gauging the freedom of internet users. According to media reports, on July 28, 2021, Iran’s parliament approved a bill to ban foreign messengers and deepen internet censorship. During the unofficial parliamentary session, 121 members voted in favor, and 74 members voted against the bill.

From early June, Iranian regime began discussing the “Bill for Protection of Cyberspace Users” with the aim of reinforcing existing digital barriers to prevent access to social networks and free internet, which is already criticized by the rights groups as digital discrimination.

Experts on Iran said, after passing of the bill, it will be forwarded to the Cultural Commission, where it can be put in pilot implementation. The pilot implementation may continue for 3-5 years before it is applied on every citizen of the country.

Main reason behind formulating this draconian law is to limit social media and messenger apps, especially Instagram. In Iran, Instagram is widely used and until now is not being filtered.

For the past weeks, state-run media in Iran have been suggesting replacing Instagram with locally made apps. But, according to cyber experts, such local apps would only play the role of traps serving the purpose of rogue regime in Iran.

According to Iran Student Polling Agency, over 53 percent adults in Iran use Instagram.

Iranians have already protested government’s plan of enforcing censorship on Twitter. Even state-run economic website Tejaratnews said, this would destroy country’s internet-based businesses.

Iran’s state-run ISNA News Agency also said the bill would create problems since the number of Iranians using the internet for business have significantly increased.

It said many Iranian business establishments offer their products on the internet, including many small and home-based businesses. According to the report, members of the Chamber of Commerce have warned of possible consequences of the new bill.

“A national network is not a bad idea, but to disconnect from the outside world by creating a barrier on social media apps will create problems in the future,” said the Head of the Information Technology Commission.

On June 25, an Iranian IT website wrote the new plan would create “fundamental changes” in how app messengers, users, and internet monitoring and bandwidth operate. The plan would require national and foreign messengers to register in one place and abide by Iran’s rules. All messengers must also receive permission from a new controlling entity called Organizing and Monitoring. This entity will be tasked with deciding on what will be filtered, registered, and monitored among other duties. The entity will also issue the order to authenticate users according to policies provided by Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace.

After the bill is passed, all apps must follow the new law, otherwise, they will be blocked by the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology.

In addition to user authentication and further monitoring, the bill proposes that armed forces will manage internet gateways, and the bandwidth of foreign apps will be cut in half in comparison with national apps.

Users and apps will be banned from using blocked apps, and violations will lead to 7th-degree punishment and 6th-degree punishment in case of repeated breaches.

In Iran, 6th and 7th-degree punishments include prison, fines, lashes, and social rights deprivations.

The plan by Iran’s parliament also states that 10% of revenues from international internet traffic will be given to national apps, whereas foreign apps will be banned from business services, financial and bank services.

The full detailed plan has been published in Iran’s Laws and Regulation database.

In October 2020, Iran’s Parliament passed a bill to develop a National Information Network (intranet) plan. The National Information Network’s “master engineering design” was approved on September 15 by Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace (ISCC) after it was confirmed by the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

The Iranian regime has spent years pursuing a plan to build a domestic intranet separate from the global internet for security and censorship purposes called the “National Network.” Human rights organizations have expressed concern over the National Information Network plan, saying that Iranians will be denied freedom of information. They say the main goal of the NIN is to cutoff Iranians from the world.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow his on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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