Guns drawn, Iranian intelligence marketers rushed into the apartment of a Washington Post reporter and his journalist wife in Tehran. Threatening to kill Jason Rezaian in front of his wife, Yeganeh, the 20 agents inside the July 2014 raid tore through their property and rifled through drawers, garments, and valuables for an hour. But possibly their most eagerly sought target wasn’t strictly within the residence: They pressured the couple handy over the passwords to their e-mail and social media profiles. That raid confirmed how a great deal of a hazard Iran’s theocratic government sees on the internet. It has long sought to manipulate our online world and social media strictly – and, thereby, the float of facts to the general public.
But the Islamic Republic’s relationship with the world’s extensive internet is a ways greater complicated than direct repression. Over the past four years, the government has advocated wider net use among Iranians, hoping to generate the benefits of a more excellent current financial system. As a result, nearly half the population has in its pockets a device that the state is suffering from constraining: smartphones with cameras and internet links that allow each person to broadcast to the world.
Those smartphones helped unfold the startling burst of protests throughout Iran that opened in 2018. The government succeeded in suffocating the flare-up in component by shutting off critical social media and messaging apps; however, the lesson turned clear: The identical oxygen that could resuscitate trade can also deliver the breath to ability riot. Authorities’ solution has been to create a so-called “halal net,” Iran’s personal locally controlled version of the net aimed at limiting what the general public can see.
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As Iran methods the 40th anniversary of the revolution that brought its cleric-led rule to electricity, how it handles the power of our online world can be crucial to its destiny, determining whether or not it moves to more openness or seals itself off from the arena. “The Islamic Republic isn’t always black and white. It indicates a myriad of contradictions and its net policy… Is one of the excellent examples of those contradictions,” said Sanam Vakil, an accomplice fellow at Chatham House who researches Iran. “The government has taken the net and correctly used it for its functions and also has realized the dangers of it as well.