Iran not to filter social networks, minister says

Tehran, Iran, Jan. 24

By Milad Fashtami - Trend:

Iran has no plan to filter social networks.

Iran's Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said that the ministry is encouraging universities and the private sector to create domestic social networks, Iran's IRNA News Agency reported on Jan. 24.

"Until then, we don't have any plans to filter the current available social networks, since the ministry's goal is not to limit Iranians," he noted.

"However, I believe that foreign networks collect data from Iranian users and use them to pursue their own goals," he said.

Vaezi has repeatedly supported the free use of social networks despite the conservatives' pressure.

In October 2014 and in response to a final order by the judiciary to close down mobile messaging services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Tango, Vaezi said that it would have no effect.

"Our technical studies indicate that the number of social networks such as WhatsApp, Viber and Tango is so numerous that shutting them down is not the solution."

"In cooperation with the judiciary, we have to find a common solution to the problem," he added.

The ministry and Judiciary Deputy Gholam Ali Mohseni Ejei have been in a public battle over these services. Vaezi has ignored previous calls to close down WhatsApp, prompting Mohseni Ejei on Sept. 20 to issue a public deadline of one month to close it down, along with Viber and Tango.

About 4.5 to 5 million of Iranian citizens use WhatsApp and Viber.

It should be noted that several of world's most popular networks, such as Twitter and Facebook are banned in Iran, while users are still able to access them via proxies. A proxy allows bypassing 'gates' meant to block certain sites.

A survey by the Iranian Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports indicates that 69.3 percent of the country's young generation use proxy servers to by-pass the filters and access banned Internet websites.

About four million Iranians are using Facebook, according to the culture minister, Ali Jannati who is himself a user of the website.

Iran previously announced the plans to launch a smart filtering system for websites that provides access to users based on their condition and identity.

The Managing Director of Iran's Telecommunication Infrastructure Company Mahmoud Khosravi said in December that the system is pretty much like parental control.

"The content will be blocked in the access layer, instead of international gateway," he explained.

"The access layer will be defined based on ISPs, operators, or provinces. We haven't decided on that yet," Khosravi said.

Vaezi said in November that the smart filtering system will determine which parts of a website are criminal. So just those parts will be blocked and the rest will be accessible.

"The project is expected to come on stream in 10 months," Vaezi said, praising the efforts of domestic experts.

Vaezi said on Nov. 15 that the ministry is in talks with foreign hosts to manage the mobile social network applications inside the country.

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