Reports of plans for a nationwide intranet to replace the world wide web in Iran have surfaced once again. The Telegraph claims that Iran is planning “to move key ministries and state bodies off the worldwide internet next month” as part of “a project to replace the global internet with a domestic intranet system scheduled to be completed within 18 months.”
Herdict previously covered Iran’s alleged plans for a “halal internet” in April 2012, when the Iranian government refuted Western media reports that Iran was planning to replace the Internet with a closed, national Intranet. Outlets that had carried the story, such as the International Business Times and the OpenNet Initiative, issued retractions. Since then, coverage of the topic has remained highly speculative. Ars Technica explains that while Iranian government officials have referred to a “halal internet,” “the government has not yet explained precisely what they mean, what its technical capabilities are, nor when it would launch.”
The latest update from The Telegraph claims that Iran has begun to disconnect “key ministries and state bodies” from the global internet in response to “disruptive cyber attacks” like Stuxnet. The Stuxnet attribution is somewhat tenuous, since Stuxnet entered a closed Iranian network via a USB drive, not via the Internet. Nevertheless, Internet-based cyberattacks are a threat to state networks, so sealing off government bodies from the world wide web can be a legitimate protective measure and need not be cause for concern by itself. However, if Iran also intends to restrict its civilians to domestic intranet access, online freedoms of expression will be crippled even more than they already are in Iran. A domestic, state-run intranet would represent a powerful tool for filtering, surveillance, and censorship.