The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Iran Aiming to Create "Halal" Internet

Yesterday Iranian authorities blocked the use of most VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), technology commonly used to get around internet filters and electronic snooping, especially in places like China. This is apparently one of the final steps as Iran prepares to completely seal itself off from the World Wide Web, creating a domestic “halal” intranet similar to North Korea’s.

Given Iran’s trouble with hack attacks like the Stuxnet virus, and with presidential elections approaching this June, tightening internet restrictions clearly makes sense to the mullahs.

Zachary Seward, writing at Quartz, notes that Iran’s increasingly harsh internet censorship is likely to have an unintended consequence: Iranian businessmen and women will no longer be able to rely on the internet to do business with the outside world. This, he suggests, could “inflame a restive populace in Tehran.”

But Iran’s mercantile class has long been chafing under the repressive theocratic regime, for many reasons, not just internet restrictions. They’re used to this sort of thing by now. Indeed, Iranian internet users have been evading official filters for years. True, without VPNs they’ll have to get more creative. But one should not underestimate the Iranian capacity for ingenuity.

Published on March 11, 2013 12:36 pm