OpenNet Initiative. Internet Filtering in Iran in 2004-2005: A Country Study. 9 Apr. 2009.
This repotr by the OpenNet Initiative is a thorough analysis of the internet filtering technology used in Iran. The study begins with a detailed description of the regulation and censorship restrictions in place both in print media and online. Then, the ONI attempts to study the Iranian filtering system. Through accessing remote computers behind Iran's firewalls, the ONI tested a list of websites to see whether they would be accessible or not. They try this technique on multiple computers and do it several different times in order to get an understanding of how consistently a certain website is blocked. Through analyzing the content of HTTP headers and web site loading time, researchers separated sites into four categories: unfiltered, possibly filtered through redirection, possibly filtered with a possible network connection error, and definitively filtered. In Iran, researchers concentrated on two ISPs: the private ParsOnline and the state-owned TCI. Results showed that only one-third of websites tested were blocked. Sites with pornographic material or that provided access to circumvention tools was filtered more successfully. Over the testing period of a year, filtering increased, particularly the filtering of blogs.
This study is perhaps the only empirical study that tests the regulation mechanism in Iran. By providing details of the filtering software and giving empirical data, readers get a clearer picture of the breadth of content that the Iranian government seeks to block. The filtering in Iran appears to be at a sophisticated level, moving beyond pornographic content that violates Islamic law and focusing on more personal forms of expression, such as blogs. One interesting result, however, is that non-Iran specific sites or non-Farsi content is harder for the filtering software to block. Still, the software in place results in an "overbreadth" of sites being blocked, censoring more forms of expression than needed/
Tehrani, Hamid. "Iran's Revolutionary Guards Take on the Internet." Weblog post. Internet & Democracy Blog. 8 Jan. 2009. Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. 7 Apr. 2009 .
Tehrani's post addresses an announcement made at the end of 2008 by a branch of the Iranian army that it plans to launch 10,000 blogs for military forces. The ideologically-motivated group sees blogs as a threat to the Islamic Republic and are concerned that it might lead to a non-violent revolution. Tehrani claims that a chief cause of the Revolutionary Guards' action is fears over the state's lack of control over the internet; the Iranian government controls all other media. In 2008, detailed information about corruption was posted and spread on blogs. As Iranian citizens spread the word, public outcry grew, causing many high-ranked officials to resign. Tehrani notes that this government accountability is much more prevalent now that Iranian citizens themselves have the ability to publish information. He remains skeptical about the Revolutionary Guards' efforts, stating that Iranian conservative media has never been able to attract readers--despite the lack of competition from other sources.
Tehrani's post mentions an intriguing policy decision that demonstrates changing attitudes in Iranian government. This "if you can't beat them, join them" belief is a shift from a policy of attempted censorship and filtering that has been largely ineffective. The post is also one of the few sources that mentions the existence of conservative blogs. Interestingly, mullahs and conservative politicians have also been turning to blogs to express their views, and many are well-read. Tehrani's critique of the government policy, however, is that these blogs will essentially be "mass-produced". The government is likely to keep a strict eye on them in order to ensure they reflect official policies. This regulation is counterintuitive to the spontaneous, often-opinionated dialogue that makes blogs so popular in Iran, which is likely to render them ineffective as propaganda tools.