Baku, Azerbaijan, March 12
Internet regulation in Iran is still intricate. The complexity is caused by a wide range of stakeholders from opposing sides of the political spectrum. In spite of the risks, a lot of Internet users in Iran try to express their opinions on social media. However, in some cases circumventing official blocks on certain platforms.
What websites are banned in Iran?
All speech from the Web, which is considered to be vulgar, blasphemous, or pornographic is banned in Iran. The news and politics websites are heavily censored as well. Almost all western streaming services, like CouchTuner, and social media are banned.
Can residents access restricted content?
There are about 56 million Internet users in Iran and a lot of them, especially young ones, know how to bypass geo-blocking. They use proxy servers or VPN providers in order to get access to restricted websites.
Proxy servers are immensely efficient at bypassing geo-blocking. They intercept user’s traffic and take control over it. Such servers also mirror a user’s activity on the Internet, so the destination server cannot “see” real IP of a user.
However, proxy servers are not so safe and secure. That’s why VPN providers are more preferable among Internet users in Iran. A VPN technology was initially developed for employees who worked remotely and had to connect to servers on the Internet secretly. Today this technology is extremely widespread among Internet users all around the world. In fact, it has proven itself as the most reliable way to mask an IP address.
A VPN changes an IP by assigning a virtual IP address. A real IP is only used for a connection to a VPN, all other traffic is tunneled over private network. In other words, a VPN makes an internet user appear on the Web outside Iran.
Who can access restricted content in Iran?
Today many businesses, especially those ones that are owned by individuals with close ties to the establishments, are shaped around Internet access. Of course, politicians use social media in order to keep in touch with their supporters. Conservatives also have political motivations to keep social media available.
When will restricted websites be available for all residents of Iran? The simple answer is, it’s complicated. Speaking about western social media websites, it is a common dilemma for their companies, operating in foreign countries, what’s best: to continue to adhere to their anti-censorship philosophy or access to the country’s market by restricting certain content.
The situation even forced the developers to create domestic social websites. However, all attempts were not successful as the popularity of foreign sites, even if they can be accessed secretly masking IP address, makes Iranian social media noncompetitive.