The Iranian government, wary from the internet-driven 2009 demonstrations and the recent Arab revolutions, is planning to wall-off much of the country's online access. A high-ranking Iranian official has their new solution: A "Halal Internet" that will run as a nationwide intranet and be subject to extensive censorship.
According to Iranian Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Ali Agha Mohammadi, the "Halal Internet" project is expected to be completed in 18 months (Persian language link). Mohammadi explicitly cited China's extensive internet controls as an inspiration for the project, which will be completed with the help of what the Minister calls "foreign consultants."
Mohammadi also says Iran plans to offer access to the intranet to nearby countries:
Iran will soon create an internet that conforms to Islamic principles, to improve its communication and trade links with the world" […] We can describe it as a genuinely 'halal' network aimed at Muslims on a ethical and moral level […] The aim of this network is to increase Iran and the Farsi language's presence in what has become the most important source of international communication.
Mohammadi confirmed that the "Halal Internet" will be extensively censored and monitored by Iranian authorities. Entertainment, ecommerce and egovernment services will all be available through the service, which is expected to have 10 million initial users. Iranians, Mohammadi stressed, will also continue to have access to the internet as a whole. However, his praise for China's internet policy indicates that the Iranian government may view them as a role model for online censorship.
Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Reza Taghipour Anvari is also on record as a supporter of the plan. Persian-language financial paper Donya e Eqtesad cited him as praising the nationwide intranet's ability to censor "dirty and unethical" content.
The announcement was made via the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran's official news service. Persian is commonly used to varying degrees in the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekstan, giving the Iranian nationwide intranet a broad audience for export.
In nearby Pakistan, Fast Company has already reported on the growth of explicitly Islam-oriented Facebook rival MillatFacebook. As for the Iranian government, they already have competition for the "Halal Internet" branding effort—a New Jersey-based firm called HalalGate already markets internet filtering software called HalalInternet.
[Image via Flickr user PaulKeller]
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