Iran has been known for its draconian ways of dealing with social and political issues but this latest push seems to border on something totally different. The country’s government, lead by supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently established a Supreme Council of Cyberspace to regulate Iran’s cyber space and one of its mandates is to create an autonomous Internet for the country.
You are probably asking, is that even possible? Well, yes, because the Internet is nothing more than a bunch of interconnected servers that create the meshed network that we call the Internet. Whether it is feasible or practical is another case altogether. This radical move was prompted after a special kind of virus named Stuxnet wrecked havoc on the country’s nuclear facilities setting them back up to 2 years in their development cycle. Stuxnet is a special type of virus because it is able to infect and affect industrial machinery, something that many have been credited to both the US government as well as the State of Israel.
Fear of future cyber attacks is what has prompted the government of Iran to try to work around the basis of all cyber threats, the Internet. In addition to the virus attack, the country’s leadership is also concerned about the effect social media has on their grip on power and also how these tools may be used to replicate, in Iran, what happened during the Arab spring.
All these issues as well as very strict Internet censorship have pushed the country into an era of oppressive digital laws that have seen journalists and other civilians arrested over cyber crimes against the state. Whether this new initiative will succeed is anyone’s guess but the very ubiquity and resilience of the Internet and the people who use it has proven difficult to contain in past instances; case in point being China, which recently relaxed its cyber policing to allow Google into the country.