BBC News explained:
The government says the goal is to create an isolated domestic intranet that can be used to promote Islamic content and raise digital awareness among the public.
It intends to replace the current system, in which officials seek to limit which parts of the existing internet people have access to via filters—an effort [Iranian Communications and Information Technology minister Mahmoud] Vaezi described as being “inefficient.”
According to Iran’s semi-official Mehr News, the network’s bandwidth will accommodate speeds of 4,000 gigabytes per second and allow access to domestic digital content and services. By forcing Iranians to rely on these state-controlled options, the network “still does not give Iran’s citizens what the UN has labelled a basic human right: an open Internet experience,” the business news website Quartz reported. “When an Iranian IP address signs onto the network, it can only access local sites (though foreign sites will be allowed with special permission granted by state authorities.)”
Even before Sunday’s inauguration, Iran already banned “almost all of the 500 most popular websites on the web,” Quartz added. British human rights group Article 19 warned in a report published earlier this year that Iran’s national internet project “significantly increases the government’s ability for surveillance on domestic Internet users.” Notably, Iran already has an abysmal record in granting its citizens unfettered internet access, according to Freedom House.
The final phase of the network’s roll-out is scheduled to take place on March 2017.
Reuters reported earlier this month that hackers believed to be associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps breached the encrypted messaging app Telegram, raising concerns that the phone numbers of more than 15 million Iranian users had been compromised.
In July, Iran threatened to ban all iPhones unless Apple opened a store in the country as part of an effort to get all cell phones registered in a national telecommunications database. Three months ago, Iran ordered all messaging apps to begin storing their data inside the country or risk being prohibited from operating in the country. These moves have raised concerns that Iranian users could have their data seized by the government.
In February, an app designed to help users avoid Iran’s morality police was removed by authorities shortly after it was made available.
When Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was asked in 2013 if it was hypocritical for him to have Facebook and Twitter accounts while those platforms were denied to average Iranians, the minister laughed and said, “that’s life.”
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