Earlier this week, the Iranian people awoke to the surprise that the web filters had been lifted and they suddenly had access to social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter amongst numerous other websites.
The more tech-savvy Iranian internet users may have been using virtual private networks, VPNs, to skirt around the filters and access these sites anyway, but it appeared that the filters had finally lifted for the whole Iranian populace. This was the first time since 2009 that they had been allowed onto these services, after protesters used the sites to organise anti-government rallies after the 2009 election.
Many took to the web to voice their delight at their new-found digital freedom, and thanking recently elected moderate President Hassan Rouhani for the change. One Facebook user called Mehdi wrote on his page:
Dear friends in America, do you believe miracles?!”
Well one has just apparently happened in Iran and the government in Tehran has lifted its filtering on Facebook!!!
Sadly this was not a miracle, but merely a “technical glitch” in the Iranian filters which had been corrected within 24 hours, bringing down that curtain of censorship once again.
Whilst those of us in the west may look at the censorship in Iran and more famously China as signs of repressive regimes when compared to our democracies – our own government are already looking to follow in their footsteps.
The recent revelations by Edward Snowden have demonstrated the widespread snooping on our digital communications by the NSA in the US and GCHQ in the UK. Even more worrying is the push by the current conservative government towards some form of “moral censorship” of the internet, where ISPs are being asked to automatically block any site found distasteful by those in Westminster – whether that is adult material or gambling websites.
If the government has an issue with adult or gambling websites, then they should look into forcing those sites to require user identification to access them, or look at making them illegal. Censorship does little good and is easily circumvented by those “in the know”.