According to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union, 44% of the country’s over 80-million residents has access to the internet in 2016.
Recent announcements that Iranian citizen will have to verify their identity to use the internet has sparked outrage. Many have said that by doing this the country is eroding individual privacy rights. The week Abolhassan Firouzabadi, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme Cyberspace Council publically said that identification was one of the most important issues in building the foundations of the country’s cyberspace.
He added that everyone’s identity must be verified. And that every Iranian in cyberspace must have a smart or digital identity. Failure to do so will result in users not being able to access banking, medical, travel or other electronic services. Many social media apps are highly heavily restricted or censored in Iran.
Only 44% of the country’s over 80-million residents have access to the internet in 2016. This was according to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union. The Iranian state policies have increasingly focused on strengthening the control of the state over the internet. In August, Deputy Telecommunications Minister Nasrollah Jahangard mentioned that user verification was a potential requirement.
He said this during the launch the National Information Network (NIN). According to Jahangard, when NIN becomes fully operational, it will be compulsory for users to input a unique code in order to be verified. Only then will they be able to use the network. Currently, it remains unclear whether users will be able to hide their identities using VPNs.
These are currently used to bypass state censorship controls. Previously Iranian officials suggested the introduction of a filtering system which would restrict online content. Smart Filtering was introduced by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration in 2014.
The then-Telecommunications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said that there had been pressure to block one of the social networks. He added that instead, the government was successful in purifying its content.
He added that the idea behind smart filtering was not to block websites but rather to allow people to access content which is not immoral. The said immoral content made up just 10-15 percent of social media. But, Internet experts have expressed doubts about the efficiency of smart filtering.
In 2015 one expert said that the smart filtering system developed had not met the expectations of the people. In July this year, there were threats to take Vaezi to court for his refusal to block thousands of channels. It was this failure of smart filtering that resulted in Iranian authorities focusing on internet classification. Amir Khorakian, the deputy director of Iran’s National Cyberspace Center said that internet classification plans will be implemented. This will mean that certain centers such as those involved in research could have access to a vast portion of the internet.
He added that the internet would be divided based on the users’ needs and projects.