Thursday, November 26, 2009

Training of Senior Internet Monitors

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Rooz Online English

During a recent seminar titled, “The Police and Security: Prospects for 2025”, Iran’s minister of intelligence Heidar Moslehi announced the training of “Senior Internet Officers” to confront the enemy assault in the blogosphere. The government’s new plan to further control internet users in Iran comes at a time when serious punishment all the way up to the death penalty has already been envisioned for internet site managers and blog operators if the government determines them to be criminals. Without going into the details of the new plan to train these “officers”, the minister mentioned the post election events in Iran saying, “the conspiracy (or sedition) issue which came about because of the union between the counter-revolutionaries inside and outside Iran, requires us to change our national security perspective and there are those who do not wish to allow the Islamic revolution to continue.” A Security Atmosphere Regarding the Internet. As the influence and reach of the Internet has been growing in Iran, Ahmadinejad’s administration too has been presenting various plans and ways to contain this trend in cyberspace. Last year a law that defined Internet crimes was passed and the punishment by death for website and blog managers for those the government considers to be Internet violators is provided in the law. According to this law, Internet violations are in the same category as theft ad robbery. Following that, the Islamic Revolution Guards (IRGC) created an organization to combat organized criminal activities on the Internet.

But despite these efforts, as massive public protests picked up momentum following the official announcement of the June 12 presidential elections, Iranian Internet users used such social networks as Facebook, Twitter, Utube to communicate with each and pass information regarding government violence and their military supporters. But as the number of Internet users grew, security agencies too increased their threats, pursuits and arrests. Right from the first days following the elections, the IRGC threatened website and blog users with heavy punishment and consequences. The judiciary of the Islamic republic too has been busy in these field and just recently passed heavy punishments for a number of suspects. Last month, the head of the police announced the creation of a cyber police division adding that “Internet police would patrol websites and blogs.” Colonel Omidi said, “As Internet usage grows and becomes more public, law enforcement agencies will confront those who commit criminal acts in the Internet just as they confront regular criminals.” The recent remarks by the minister of intelligence about training senior Internet officers appear to be an organized measure to intensify efforts to confront what officials classify as “Internet crimes” through specialized training of security personnel to confront anti-government cyber activities and the identification of Internet users.