- Over the past two weeks, the internet has been the site of an intensified battle between Iranian internet users and Iran's Filtering Committee (IFC). It began when secure access to Google search and Gmail was blocked, provoking a media storm with western media like Ars Technica and the Guardian quick to report. The filtering was removed after a week and Iranians are now able to access their Google accounts and search securely with Google.
Then, on October 4, 2012, the IFC began preventing files hosted on servers outside Iran from entering the country by blocking specific file extensions. At the time of writing, this policy applies to all MP3, MP4, AVI and SWF files. This kind of filtering was used after the controversial presidential elections of 2009, amidst harsh crackdowns on freedom of information, and coincides with Iran's current economic crisis and the ensuing protests.
Twitter user Arash Zad was one of the first to break the news: "They've been blocked in Iran. MP3s and SWF files are only available if hosted inside Iran".
- This new filtering protocol is severely restricting access to information. The admin of CGTV.ir, an online training platform tweeted: “With the blocking of video file extensions the training videos on my site are out of reach [for Iranians]".
- Android programmer Ali Ajoudanian also expressed concern: “In Iran, the application I'm writing for Android is being impeded by the blocking of MP3 files. I don't know whether to carry on with it or not".
- Sushyant Zavarzadeh, host of the free and popular podcast service Radio Avagah, has also been unable to reach Iran with his work.
The above are merely a few examples from thousands of Iranian internet users being affected by this new filtering, which is, essentially, another step closer towards Iran's national internet. Most Iranian websites are hosted outside of Iran in order to evade the strict regulations set in place by the IFC and the Cyber Crimes Law. Buying a server inside Iran is also cost prohibitive, which is why most web startups host their work on servers outside Iran. Another reason Iranians are reluctant to host websites inside Iran is because the IFC, if it detects 'inappropriate' content, can shut down a website and delete all of its content and data without warning.
The stranglehold of the Iranian authorities over the internet is strengthening and suffocating Iranian internet users who are constantly battling against the regime in their struggle for freedom of and access to information.