The Iranian regime is known for its repressive measures to keep a lid on any attempts to alter the control of the mullahs over the country. The continued efforts to control social media are just one example of the attempts of the regime to cap the unrest and instability of the Iranian people. Recently, Twitter has come under fire by the regime, because Iranians are using it to organize protests, demonstrations, and even strikes. Hence, it was banned in 2009.
According to Iranian media outlets, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the head of the Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content, is advising that the blocking of Twitter is an issue that goes beyond his committee’s authority. Several members of the committee have recently called on Montazeri to take action to reverse the blocking, but it clear that he does not want to go out on that limb.
Despite the reluctance of the regime to give the Iranian access to Twitter and other social media sites, the technology-savvy Iranian people from accessing banned applications. Using VPNs, users are accessing content as if they were outside Iran and not limited by bans.
Another means that the Iranian people have been using is anti-filters. The Iranian Ministry of Information and Communications Technology claims that the anti-filters can be used as ransomware, thus posing a security threat. The use of anti-filters has increased as the regime has blocked Telegram, another popular communication tool for Iranians.
On May 15, Mohammad -Javad Azari Jahromi said that the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology received the order from the Supreme Council of Cyberspace to block anti-filters. He also confirmed that the order came from President Rouhani with the goal of blocking ransomware. It appears that Rouhani is publicly against blocking Telegram and these other options, while privately moving forward with the blocking orders.
The Iranian people are not strangers to the regime’s censorship. The Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content is essentially a cyberspace watchdog, one that decides what people should or should not be allowed to view and access on the web. It was established in 2009 and composed of 13 people. Six of the members are ministers from President Rouhani’s cabinet.
There is evidence that the Iranian regime is finding itself in a position that does not allow for the fundamentalism to continue indefinitely. The façade of control is slipping. On June 30, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Iranians, and allies will be gathering in Paris to discuss the future of Iran. This is the alternative to the regime that the international community has been looking for and it is time to embrace the alternative.