Iran reportedly creating software to allow controlled access to social networks

Flickr Iran flag

According to local media, Iran's latest effort to control internet access would reportedly give citizens "restricted and controlled" access to prohibited social networking sites, the AFP reports. Iran has had an uneasy relationship with the web, especially as political tension between it and the United States government has widened; the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa outlawing anti-filtering tools that help citizens access blocked material on the internet in May, and the country has reportedly been working on a government-run network that would operate "largely isolated" from the rest of the internet, fearing Western attacks. But some citizens have ignored the bans, bypassing Iranian filters and controls using virtual private networks.

"The designing of intelligent software to control social networking websites is underway."

In an apparent recognition of its inability to completely block the outside world, the country is reportedly now taking additional measures with "intelligent software" to control access to social networks; "smart control of social networks is better than filtering them completely," Iranian police chief Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam reportedly said. Iran's government has been skeptical of social websites and other services, and with some good reason: the US has largely maintained an aggressive stance towards the country, with official efforts for agencies and corporations to assist Iranian citizens in subverting the country's "electronic curtain." And Iranian officials claim that they continue to be attacked by Stuxnet, a sophisticated cyberweapon reportedly developed by Israel and the US.

It's not clear when the software will be finished, or exactly how it will function, but it could be an automated filtering system that removes or blocks blasphemous or other controversial content. Earlier this month, the country launched its own version of YouTube dubbed Mehr, that allows users to upload and view content they create, and watch videos from Iranian national broadcaster IRIB.

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