Why Iranians aren't free to tweet

Published November 10th, 2015 - 06:00 GMT
Twitter users are strictly censored in Iran. (Shutterstock)
Twitter users are strictly censored in Iran. (Shutterstock)

Between the nuclear deal and actress Sadaf Taherian’s hijab-less photos, you’d think Iranians would be all over Twitter with opinions. But thanks to some of the strictest Internet laws in the world, you’d be wrong.

This year’s “Freedom On The Net” report by Freedom House pegs Iran as the third most censored countries in the world, scoring 87 on a scale of 1, being the most free, to 100, being the least. To give you some context, that means Iran falls right next to Syria (87), and narrowly behind China (88).

According to Freedom House, Internet filtering in Iran began toward the end of Khatami’s presidency in 2005. But since the disputed 2009 presidential election, the country stepped up its game, starting with the investment in new censorship technologies and the creation of a new government body—the Committee for Determining Instances of Criminal Content (CDICC)—on the lookout for forbidden content and the websites that host it.

This limits the ability to track hashtag trends from the country and prevents tweets from picking up much steam. And the media isn’t much better off—the 2000 Press Law forbids the publication of ideas that are contrary to Islamic principles or detrimental to public rights, both of which are enormously ambiguous terms.

That’s how Twitter got caught in the mix.

The CDICC argues national security concerns and the potential for political unrest make the social media site too risky not to blocked.

Freedom House also said that during a month-long span last summer, Iranian officials blocked an estimated 75 percent of users from connecting to Tor, an anonymous web-browsing tool used to as a loophole through government censorship and surveillance on sites like Twitter.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Information and Communications Technology Ministry’s budget got unprecedented funding last May, meaning authorities are investing more than ever in censorship technologies.

At this rate, Iranian Twitter could be totally wiped out.

By Elizabeth Tarbell

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