Throughout today, Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran-based correspondent of The Washington Post, has been noting the gradual lockdown of the Internet in Iran. His rolling comments are noted in a blog by Elizabeth Flock, while Erdbrink's article follows:
Iran begins blocking access to Gmail, other sites
When Thomas Erdbrink, The Washington Post’s correspondent in Tehran, logs on to the Internet in Iran, he never knows whether Gmail and Google Reader, The Post or Facebook will open for him. Increasingly, this is the error message he sees instead of the page he was trying to reach:
Translation: “According to computer crime regulations, access to this Web site is denied.
Iranian bloggers have long used a workaround, by connecting to the Internet and then switching to a special connection that bypasses the country’s extremely effective firewall. But Erdbrink reports Thursday that the software recently has stopped working.
Many fear the failing software indicates Iran’s so-called “National Internet” is on the horizon. The government has said the National Internet can be launched at any time. Erdrink reports:
The government’s technology officials have announced the construction of a domestic internet network comparable to an office intranet, which would block many popular sites .... Officials stress that there will still be access to the Web — just not to the “damaging” sites. But Iranian internet users and activists fear that the activation of the National Internet will cut them off from the rest of the world, and put them under increased surveillance by authorities.
“Basically they are already shutting off access to all interesting Web sites,” prominent Iranian blogger Maysam — who spoke on the condition that the last name not to be used out of fear of being summoned by Iran’s cyber police, — told Erdbrink. “We will resemble an isolated island in a changing world if this happens.”
Erdbrink has already felt that isolation....
Iran increasingly controls its Internet
Whenever Maysam, a prominent Iranian blogger, connects to the Internet from his office in the bazaar, he switches on a special connection that for years would bypass the Islamic republic’s increasingly effective firewall.
But recently the software, which allowed him and millions of other Iranians to go online through portals elsewhere in the world, stopped working. When it sporadically returns, speeds are so excruciatingly slow that sites such as Facebook and Balatarin.com – which evaluates unofficial news and rumors in Farsi — become unusable.
“There has been a change,” said Maysam, who spoke on the condition his last name not to be used out of fear of being summoned by Iran’s cyber police. “It seems that the authorities are increasingly getting the upper hand online.”
Having seen social media help power uprisings across the Middle East, Iran’s leaders are trying to get control over what is uploaded, posted and discussed on the Internet. And after a slow start, authorities are becoming more and more successful, Iranian Internet users say.
Many fear that the disabling of the software used to bypass the state-run firewall heralds the coming of what authorities have labeled the National Internet. The government’s technology officials have announced the construction of a domestic Internet network comparable to an office intranet, which would block many popular sites. They have hinted the National Internet can be launched at any time, and have said it will gradually start working over the coming three years.
The move is borne out of necessity, authorities say, in order to prevent Iran’s Western enemies from spying on Iranian citizens. The crackdown on Internet freedom comes amid tension in Iran over a series of mysterious assassinations and explosions that have been blamed on U.S. or Israeli spies. The West has put increasing pressure on Iran in recent months to abandon its uranium enrichment program, which Iran insists is peaceful but which the U.S. and others claim is geared toward the development of a nuclear weapon.