Foreign Policy Blogs

Iran Cracking Down On Online Activists

Iran is playing for keeps on Internet censorship. More details have emerged on the activists arrested in conjunction with the hacking of US servers that took place last week. Via InsideIran:

[T]he group arrested by Iranian authorities was the committee against censorship in Iran that goes by the name Iran Proxy. This group is composed of students specializing on the Internet that began its activities in mid 2003 amid the government’s expansion of filtering efforts. These individuals aimed to spread the culture of free speech and free thought and promote anti-censorship ideas.

Iran is better educated and more middle-class than many, and the significant crackdown in political liberties and freedom of speech over the last year has got to rankle. The situation in China is different; despite their online awfulness, openness has generally increased over the last few years. Having liberties taken away is far  worse than never having had them. At least that’s what 16-year old Chris remembers.

The Iranian government is playing up the idea that accused are CIA stooges who received millions in funding to overthrow the government via nefarious cyberplots.

I don’t doubt that the accusation is absurd, but it points to the difficulty in US support of anti-regime activists and the fact that, however useful, Internet freedom projects funded by State Department grants are going to be tarred as imperialist schemes.

However, let me be the first to welcome our new Iranian CyberOverlords:

Recently, in an unprecedented move, General Naini, Basij’s cultural and social deputy commander, announced, “by the end of this year [in the Iranian calendar], cyberspace will be conquered by hezbollahi forces.”

Hat tip: The Progressive Realist