The Islamic Republic of Iran remains of two minds about the internet. In 1993, Iran became only the second country in the Middle East (after Israel) to connect to the world-wide network and while Iranians culturally embraced it, the connection it afforded ordinary Iranians to outside cultures and ideas has become an increasing concern to Iran’s revolutionary authorities.
It is in this context that the accompanying excerpted interview with Moselm Mo’in, chief of the Basij Cyberspace Headquarters, is interesting. The Basij Cyberspace Headquarters, founded in 2014, is one of a proliferation of organizations within Iran’s bureaucracy charged with controlling Iranians’ cyber activities. It joins, for example, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGCs) Passive Defense Organization, the Law Enforcement Force’s Cyberpolice, and the Supreme Leader’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace.
In the course of the interview Mo’in spoke about the importance the Basij places in monitoring Iranians’ use of the internet and its ability, in some cases, to act proactively—presumably to entrap Iranians it suspects might use it for counterrevolutionary purposes. The overall tenor of the interview suggests that the Basij sees itself as the cultural bulwark against the broader Iranian public, which does not share the Basij’s commitment to the principles upon which Revolutionary Leader Ruhollah Khomeini based the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Beyond the excerpted portion, Mo’in used the interview both to call for parliamentary action to update and enhance the laws governing the internet in Iran, and to reaffirm his commitment to develop a national intranet as a precursor to disconnecting Iran from the broader internet. With regard to the former, the IRGC has been lobbying since at least October 2017 to amend Iran’s press law to close loopholes exposed by the proliferation of online outlets. In addition, Iran’s cybercrime law makes the distribution or promotion of any tool to bypass filtering programs illegal. While the Iranian government has widely interpreted the law to make VPNs illegal, the Basij may also seek legislative clarity to tighten what has been to date spotty enforcement.
Source » aei