New Study Uncovers Iranian Internet Censorship

Iranian women use computers at an Internet cafe / AP

A new academic study by University of Michigan computer science professor Alex Halderman is uncovering the methods Iran is using to censor its Internet, the Tower reports.

The study found that almost half of the 500 most popular sites on the Internet are censored. Many sites in the "art," "society," and "news" categories are among those being censored.

The study also found that Iranian Internet is set at a speed of old dial-up modems.

Last year Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei set up a government authority to monitor the Internet, dubbed the Supreme Council of Virtual Space. All websites must be registered with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Reporters Without Borders has included Iran on its list of a dozen regimes it deems "Enemies of the Internet."

In a practice that has generated controversy in the West, Iran uses content-control software developed by U.S. companies. The regime is known to use packages from, among others, the San Jose-based startup SmartFilter. The Silicon Valley firm insists that Iranian authorities are using their software without a license.

U.S. authorities are also increasing pressure on Tehran to free up its cyberspace. Following Iran’s fraudulent 2009 elections, the U.S. Senate passed the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act – VOICE – allocating $50 million to funding anti-censorship activities in Iran.