Iran has adopted one of the world’s most substantial Internet censorship regimes. Iran, along with China, is among a small group of states with the most sophisticated state-mandated filtering systems in the world.
Iran has adopted this extensive filtering regime at a time of extraordinary growth in Internet usage among its citizens and a burst of growth in writing online in the Farsi language. Iran’s sophisticated Internet censorship regime is part of a trend that the OpenNet Initiative’s research has uncovered toward states focusing on blocking expression in local languages, such as Farsi, and with a particular view toward clamping down on what can be published through inexpensive and popular applications, such as weblogs.
Iran is also one of a growing number of countries, particularly in the Middle East region, that rely upon commercial software developed by for-profit United States companies to carry out the core of its filtering regime.
Iran has recently acknowledged that it uses the commercial filtering package SmartFilter – made by the US-based company, Secure Computing – as the primary technical engine of its filtering system.
This commercial software product is configured as part of the Iranian filtering system to block both internationally-hosted sites in English and sites in local languages.
SmartFilter, as with all commercial filtering software packages, is prone to over-blocking, errors, and a near-total lack of transparency. In effect, Iran outsources many of the decisions for what its citizens can access on the Internet to a United States company, which in turn profits from its complicity in such a regime.