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Iran Begins New Web Crackdown
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As the government in Tehran experiences greater difficulties stemming from economic problems and threats of international sanctions, Iran is implementing new guidelines regarding internet expression including statutes that will increase the amount of video surveillance in places such as internet cafes.

In its most pervasive move, Iran is requiring internet cafes to put in security cameras, begin collecting personal details on their customers, and monitoring the online presence of their users, and has only given them 15 days to do so.

Many people in Iran believe their home computers are no longer private and have flocked to internet cafes as an alternative option. Until recently, such places have been popular among young people in most neighborhoods. However, this week internet users in Iran have reported that many favorite sites are now blocked, and they have had difficulty accessing social networking sites in particular. Internet connections have also been slow. These difficulties are likely the beginning of a new development that Iran has been looking to implement – a domestic intranet. The purpose of this initiative is to protect Iranians from the ideas and influence of a non-Islamic Western culture. It is purported that internet access will soon be replaced with this new intranet. Testing of the intranet is presumed to have caused the slow connection experienced by cybercafé patrons. A spokesperson for the computer systems union reports the intranet will be ready to go live within a few weeks.

  
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The internet has become a persistent problem in the political arena ever since it was used by activists to plan and implement widespread protests against what they considered the rigged re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. Since then, attempts have been made to control the internet and what information is available to the citizens of Iran. The intranet represents the grandest effort to assert such control.

With the implementation of video surveillance, Iran joins such nations as Libya and China who also monitors and tracks who uses the internet. Under Moammar Gadhafi, Libya extensively monitored web access and use. China not only filters and censors what is available on the web, but also requires internet café patrons to show identification before being given access to the internet.

The internet crackdown in Tehran comes in the midst of Iran’s parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2. Political parties advocating reform have already boycotted the upcoming election. In addition, Iran is experiencing continued worsening economic problems such as decreased foreign sales, rising inflation, and a devalued rial, the currency in Iran.

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The rial is experiencing a record low of dropping 40% against the U.S. dollar in the past few weeks resulting from threats by United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on Iran’s banking system and an embargo on Iranian crude oil because they suspect Iran is continuing to acquire nuclear weapons. Also, U.S. military officials continue to propose limiting access to the Persian Gulf which would greatly limits Iran’s ability to export their oil.





 

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