As August came to a close, Iran officially unveiled a new internet service – a domestic one which offers users “high quality, high speed” connections at low prices. The purpose of this “national” data network, Iran’s first? Purportedly the “domestication of needed technologies,” as per Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi, as cited by the government-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
However, the intranet platform is also intended to replace what limited, filtered access Iranians have to the web – access Vaezi described as not filtered enough – with an entirely local system which is under full government control. In actual fact, the isolated, censored domestic network will be used to cut Iranians off from the world – thus further violating what the UN has deemed a basic human right, open access to the internet – and “promote Islamic content,” among the more explicit goals of promoting digital awareness among Iranians and combating cyber-threats (Iran itself, meanwhile, continues to pose a cyber-threat to the West). According to British human rights group Article 19, whose report was also cited by the BBC, the new network could also pave the way for increased surveillance and information retention.
The true purpose of Iran’s new internet service was quickly soused by Western media outlets, which pointed out the “totalitarian” purposes to which the network could be put to use – luring users in with the promise of faster and cheaper connectivity, only to wrench away what little access Iranians have to the World Wide Web, as well as the world, along with their privacy, freedom of speech, and other basic rights which have continued to be eroded under the “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani.
Vaezi’s controversial announcement even made it to satire news site The Onion, which recently ran a mock poll regarding Iran’s “own internet service” – with one respondent opining that he was “really happy” with the “current internet provider the government uses to monitor” him, and another saying the new network would “make funneling theocratic propaganda to the masses so much easier.”