Iran’s current approach to internet censorship typically isn’t subtle – either you get unfettered access, or you don’t see a site at all. However, the country’s government is about to take a more measured approach to blocking online content it doesn’t like. It’s deploying “intelligent filtering” that tries to restrict only the material deemed “criminal or unethical,” rather than cutting off an entire service.
Iran is to expand what it calls “smart filtering” of the Internet, a policy of censoring undesirable content on websites without banning them completely, as it used to, the government said on Friday. The Islamic Republic has some of the strictest controls on Internet access in the world, but its blocks on U.S.-based social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are routinely bypassed by tech-savvy Iranians using virtual private networks (VPNs). Under the new scheme, Tehran could lift its blanket ban on those sites and, instead, filter their content. The policy appears to follow President Hassan Rouhani’s push to loosen some social restrictions, but it was not clear if it would mean more or less Internet freedom. Iranians on Twitter expressed concern that, as part of the new policy, the government would try to block VPN access to such sites.