Iran is testing a domestic Internet, a “Halal” network that will restrict citizens from penetrating foreign sites. Internet users this week reported delays in their network connections, which is believed to be connected to the new network’s trial run.
The Wall Street Journal says the domestic Internet replacement aims to restrict the influence of non-Islamic culture and western ideology. The network — technically an Intranet — should be ready to go live within a few weeks, Iranian media reported.
Internet users in Iran have reported slower network connections, access to political sites restricted and blocked VPNs. They have been unable to access sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in the last week. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, were the technical solution many Iranians were using to access their social networks.
The country announced its plans (link in Farsi) to build the Intranet in March 2011, motivated by social media fueled protests during its 2009 election and inspired by China’s domestic controls. According to the statement, Iran plans to offer Intranet access to nearby countries interested in taking advantage of the Halal network.
“We can describe it as a genuinely ‘halal’ network aimed at Muslims on a ethical and moral level,” the Iranian Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Ali Agha Mohammadi writes.
While the Intranet will initially run parallel to the global Internet, the plan is to eventually restrict access to the Web to only governmental ministries, banks and big industries. Currently, 23 million Iranians are Internet users, according to government estimates.
In addition to testing the Intranet, the Islamic country launched a new round of web restrictions, which require Internet cafes to install security cameras and document their user’s personal details, such as their ID numbers, addresses and fathers’ names. Cafes have 15 days to get their camera systems in place.
The new restrictions come two months before the upcoming parliamentary elections Mar. 2, and amidst talk of international sanctions. The government hopes the latest restrictions will limit election-related protests of the kind that organized on social networks in Egypt last year. All online planning of protests — through social media or email — will be considered national security crimes, the government said.
“They want to execute a plan where no one has protection, so they can trace whoever is involved in what they perceive as anti-government activity at any given moment and at any location,” Ehsan Norouzi, an Iranian cybersecurity expert living in Germany told the WSJ.
Will the Iranian authorities’ plan work? Is there any way protesters can get around it? Let us know in the comments.