Friday, February 12, 2010

China Lite

Following in China's footsteps, the Iranian government is cracking down on their people's ability to communicate on the internet. The government has drastically throttled the internet, slowing it to a crawl, and it has blocked e-mail service from Google and Yahoo.

This internet slowdown comes in anticipation of the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution. The government of Iran is looking to avoid a PR nightmare like the one they had during last June's election, when citizens used services such as Twitter and YouTube to transmit their protest globally.

Some communications experts believe that the authorities’ efforts to block Gmail could be related to Google encryption, which prevents the government from reading e-mail. Yahoo and Hotmail have not been similarly affected, one monitor said.

Whatever its motivation, the government described its e-mail disruptions as well intentioned. Saeed Mahdyun, a telecommunications official, told the semiofficial ILNA news agency that Gmail would be blocked to encourage users to switch to local e-mail services.

The government announced last week that it was starting a national e-mail service to replace foreign ones, as a way to build “trust” with the people. But the opposition says most people use Gmail and Yahoo precisely because they are suspicious of local e-mail services, which they strongly suspect are monitored by the government.

Iran is maintaining 6.5% GDP growth, but suffers from 15% inflation and 12.5% unemployment. Iran echos China's authoritarian internet policy, but without China's strong economic growth.

The situation in Iran is deteriorating. Many of the people seem resolved to change their government, but the government shows no signs of backing down. More blood will be shed before this is over.

[NYTimes via HuffPo via Kevin]

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