Summary of the Conference Call with Ehsan Norouzi
|September 17, 2012|
In his interview with Solmaz Sharif, Iranian journalist and online activist Ehsan Noruzi identified three main problems facing internet users in Iran today. First, cyber infrastructure is poor, many Iranians lack internet access, and those who do have it often rely on outdated “dial-up” connections or have difficulty accessing certain web services because of poor bandwidth. “The main problem is the speed of the internet and the restrictions they [the Iranian government and military] put on the bandwidth of the internet” said Noruzi. Second, the Iranian regime actively censors online activity. Various organs of the state and its security services control the results of search engine inquiries, and limit what users can post.
“All of the social networks are blocked: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube”. Third, the very “underground” nature of online activism in Iran serves to stifle Iranian voices. Internet activists fear for their lives if government censors discover their true identities.
In the interview, Noruzi urged foreign governments and NGOs to be proactive in training dissidents on how to use proxy servers (to avoid detection by the Iranian government), and in drawing attention to online activists so that their stories can be heard. He was optimistic about the effects of the internet on free speech in Iran, pointing out that governments have far more to fear from the internet and social media than they do from print media, which can be more easily controlled. Finally, Noruzi warned that governments the world over, including in democratic countries, will try to control internet use under the guise of “regulation.”