pop goes the world: the internet curtain

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  19 April 2012, Thursday

The Internet Curtain

Iran is planning to cut its citizens’ access to the World Wide Web through the roll-out of its own national Intranet.

Various reports published on the Internet on April 9 quoted from a statement said to have been released last Thursday by Reza Taghipour, Iranian minister for Information and Communications Technology, announcing the establishment of a national Intranet and the “effective blockage of services like Google, Gmail, Google Plus, Yahoo and Hotmail, in line with Iran’s plan for a “clean Internet.”

The plan’s first phase was set for May this year, in which Google, Hotmail, and Yahoo! would be blocked and “replaced with government Intranet services like Iran Mail and Iran Search Engine.”

In August, the plan’s phase two would “permanently deny Iranians access to the Internet.”

The next day, Iran denounced the report as a hoax.

In a “strongly-worded statement,” their Communications Ministry decried the original story as the work of “the propaganda wing of the West and providing its hostile media with a pretext emanating from a baseless claim.”

In March, Taghipour did say that Iran will indeed build a “Clean Internet”, a closed system like a corporate intranet that is easy to monitor and control.

It was not clear whether there would still be access to the rest of the Internet or if the Internet would be running parallel to the “Iran-tranet.”

Iran already heavily controls access to the Internet, with many foreign sites blocked, although it is not the only country doing so. There’s the “Great Firewall of China” monitored by an “Internet police” force said to be 30,000 strong. Forty countries around the world are filtering Internet access to varying levels, according to findings of the OpenNet initiative. Thankfully the Philippines is one of the countries which shows no sign of Internet censorship.

Censorship is “the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body” (Wikipedia).

In the Iranian context it is being used as a tool by the state to impose control.

First, their use of the word “clean” (in other articles, “halal”) to describe their own system implies that they consider the WWW “unclean”. Iran’s current leadership deems dirty the magical hodge-podge that it is the Internet, a carrier of filth that will defile and contaminate the culture they are creating through the imposition of their own standards, regardless of the needs and desires of their people.

We are in the 21st century, looking forward to a future in which humans use advanced technology to enhance their lives and their enjoyment of it. Yet there are corners of the world where the darkness of dictatorship still reigns with an iron fist, where the leaders believe control of a populace through censorship and curtailment of freedom of speech and information will enable them to extend their own agenda further.

We are seeing a country in the act of creating and forcing a new cultural mindset upon its people. Its women and other minority groups already suffer from the curtailment of rights. Now, they’re spreading the pain to the entire nation.

Iran may soon shut its door upon the world. Like China and other countries that screen the Internet to any degree, Iran thinks keeping the world from its people will make them swallow the state version of the truth.

Yet the truth will out. Sooner or later, it will. *** Email: jennyo@live.com, Blog: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Gogirl Café, Twitter: @jennyortuoste

Woman in Iran on Internet image here.

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