Tehran: Iran has stepped up its efforts to monitor, filter and block content on the Internet by forming a separate legal body to deal with online censorship.
The Supreme Council of Cyberspace, created by decree last week by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, includes heads of intelligence, militia, security and the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as media chiefs.
According to state media, charged with supervising all cyberactivity, it will have the power to enact laws.
The Iranian council``s member, conservative cleric Hamid Shahriari, said the council was the result of a year and a half of weekly meetings between security chiefs and Khamenei representatives, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“We are worried about a portion of cyberspace that is used for exchanging information and conducting espionage,” he told the semiofficial Mehr news agency.
“We have identified and confronted 650 websites that have been set up to battle our regime—39 of them are by opposition groups and our enemies, and the rest promote Western culture and worshiping Satan, and stoke sectarian divides,” he added.
Shahriari didn`t name the sites or clarify whether they had already been filtered, but added the council would also “focus and facilitate positive aspects of the Internet, like business and trade.”
The Internet, particularly social networking sites, and mobile phones helped Iranian activists to mobilize for anti-government protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad`s 2009 re-election prompted allegations of voting fraud.
While the Islamic Republic has successfully crushed protests in the streets with heavy crackdowns, activism and anti-government sentiment is thriving online on Iranian blogs, and opposition websites.
Iranian cyber activists worry that the new tightening of rules will make their work even more difficult and expose their identities.