By Mahmoud Pargoo, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Iran continues to restrict access to US-based social media networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as well as many other websites considered immoral or against its national security. Late last month, even Telegram, a Russian messaging app with up to 20 million users in Iran — comprising 38% of its global traffic — came under threat of being blocked, too.
Fear of political unrest has long been stated as the main reason for the government’s Internet censorship policy. Yet, while political concerns remain significant, they no longer constitute the main motivation for restricting access to some websites. Tech-savvy young Iranians bypass censorship on a daily basis using a variety of anti-filtering technologies. Indeed, the key motivation for the Iranian authorities’ restrictive Internet policy is economic in nature.
These days, social media sites and the Internet in general are increasingly being looked at through an economic lens in Iran. This shift is the result of two main developments: first; the government’s relative success with containing security risks presented by the web, and second, an increasing realization of the business potential of the Internet — including social media.
Iran’s security apparatus has been accumulating the skills and expertise to limit the security risks presented by social media ever since the protests in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election.
In terms of infrastructure, Iran has separated the global Internet from domestic traffic by implementing a national information network. In critical moments, this control enables the authorities to switch off global Internet access without interrupting the domestic network on which day-to-day affairs are run. Having parallel web infrastructure is critical, considering Iran’s increasing dependence on electronic services.