Tuesday, May 30, 2006

“Smart” Internet Filtering

Bahram Rafii, Rooz Online:
In recent days, the Iranian government has sharply increased its control and monitoring of Internet users though what is known as smart filtering, which is blocking access to sites as well as monitoring user’s access to the Internet. Many experts have publicly expressed their opposition to such filtering while officials in the ministry of communications and technology, and Iran's Information Technology Company (ITC) insist that filtering is a useful and necessary measure. They deny that they are violating the private sphere of Internet users. READ MORE

Esmail Radkani, technical and support manager of ITC has confirmed that smart filtering and surveillance of Internet sites and their users takes place. Radkani asserts that foreign-developed software falls short in monitoring all server ports and, blocking specific ports and addresses. The ones locally developed in Iran, he claims, are capable of sorting pages, monitoring the contents of all ports, blocking designated ports and internet addresses, and can update data banks.

The head of the Internet committee of Tehran’s professional computer users organization has strongly denied news reports of the existence of smart filtering system to control users' IP addresses. But he has acknowledged that technically software systems that can identify Internet users around the world, which are classified as surveillance, control and monitoring, do exit, activities that he does not consider filtering.

Mohammad Reza MirTajedini, a Tabriz Majlis (parliament) MP has said that the main purpose of the draft bill in parliament to create non-government news agencies is to form a supervisory board to oversee the activities of these news agencies, and also create a jury board to investigate the lawsuits brought against them. He has specifically said that this draft bill attempts to define Internet webblogs

But despite frequent denials from Information Technology officials about smart filtering, evidence indicates that surveillance of internet users is going to sharply increase. These concerns were raised during a recent seminar on Internet filtering. Ali Reza Tousi, director of Tehran Prosecutor's Office of Internet affairs has warned that Internet crimes can be classified as spreading moral corruption, insulting religious beliefs and contents that are against Islam and the revolution. Launching of illegal Internet sites is also considered a crime.

Amir Hossein Saiidi Naini who is the director of Iran’s professional computer users organization defends the need to filter internet sites and users. “If such filtering does not take place, there will be negative social consequences and damage. We live in a country where cultural values are tremendously important. So it is natural for us that we be sensitive to filtering”, he said at the Internet Filtering seminar.

Support manager of Information Technology Company says the government-funded, National Data Network, has the capability of filtering and sorting of 150,000 internet users simultaneously.