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Iranian Internet 'porn' may be extremely mild by web standards; the soft core material consists of pictures of women with hair falling from their headscarves and showing a little cleavage, while the hard core goes as far as nakedness, writes Robin Bloor of Bloor Research. Nevertheless, it doesn't amuse the mullahs of Iran.

Consequently, just like China six or so years ago, Iran is trying to censor the web. For China, it was a matter of blocking the critical political web sites. As Chinese use of the web has grown the censorship has become less and less effective, but still the rearguard action continues.

Iran is trying to stem a similar tide in a similar way. It wants to block access to 'degenerate' web sites which means those that are politically or morally unacceptable. In Shiite Islam sexual morality appears to be political anyway, so I guess it's all the same thing. But to be fair it also means web sites that are deemed damaging to other Shiite values, including those that promote gambling, drug taking, drinking and smoking.

In order to implement the censorship, the mullahs send lists of the banned web sites - already more than 100,000 - to the 300 or so ISPs in Iran who are, in turn, obliged to prevent access to the sinful sites. There are problems with this.

First, Iranian ISPs are not well equipped with the filtering software that they need to apply the dictates of the mullahs, and hence they get it wrong or do it slowly or both. Second, the web is organic, growing daily, so new 'degenerate' sites regularly emerge and also resurrections of banned sites spring up in new places. Third, the mullahs have no way of preventing seditious behaviour of any kind by email or in chat rooms.

None of this would matter much if the Iranian Internet population were miniscule. Actually, it is not huge - at about 8 percent of the population - but it is concentrated among the students and under 30s, who make up about 80 percent of the Iranian population as a whole.

Recently when there were popular protests in Tehran and other cities in Iran, the newspapers gave limited coverage of events. The student web sites became the only medium that reported the incidents in any detail. The mullahs have not yet tried to suppress these sites. Neither have they acted against some of the top portals, half of which either carry Iranian Internet porn or have web links that point to it.

Like China, Iran has started a battle that it cannot win. However in its case, the US technology that China deployed to help quell the information tide is not available. And the US is never going to make it available either.

© IT-Analysis.com

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