Crackdown Demonstrates Iran’s Cyber Capabilities
Thanks to the measures taken by cyber monitoring police…we have found new clues about the elements who made insulting comments….
OE Watch Commentary: On September 13 Hossein Ashtari, acting chief of Iran’s national police force, announced that Iran’s cyber police had identified those circulating jokes on Viber, an instant messaging and voice-over IP application designed for smart phones. The jokes reportedly made fun of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late follower of the Islamic Republic, as well as other senior regime officials.
The announcement highlights Iran’s growing capacity to monitor not only emails and cell phones, but also instant messaging and other social media. This, in turn, suggests that the Islamic Republic is determined not to allow social media to be used as a means to organize opposition against the regime, as youth in Arab countries had done during the Arab Spring uprisings. Subsequent to the announcement cited in the excerpted article, the judiciary also accused Iranians of using WhatsApp, Tango, and Facebook to ridicule regime leadership.
While Ashtari’s remarks reflect the degree to which social media have permeated the Islamic Republic’s sometimes cloistered society, the announcement creates a chill over communications not seen since the regime demonstrated its ability to monitor short message service (SMS) messaging during the 2009 post-election protests. (In that instance, Iranians blamed German and Scandinavian companies for having sold Tehran monitoring technology.)
While almost all Iranians acknowledge the circulation of the jokes, ordinary Iranians question whether hardliners might have circulated the jokes themselves in order to provide a reason to crackdown on Iran’s burgeoning social networks and undercut efforts to ease restrictions upon the internet inside Iran. One thing is clear: while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and leadership officials often brag about the regime’s cyber capabilities, these are not simply directed at hacking Iranian adversaries abroad, but are increasingly monitoring and targeting Iranian internet and communications technology use at home. End OE Watch Commentary (Rubin)
Source: “Sarnakhha-ye Jadid az ‘Avamel Tawheen beh Moqadasat dar Vayber” (New Clues About Viber Blasphemy), Mehr News Agency, 13 September 2014.
New Clues about Viber Blasphemy
The acting chief of the national police said: “We have found new clues about those who made insulting comments against His Excellency the Imam [Khomeini] and sanctities in the Viber social network, and if the judiciary approves, we will expose these individuals to the public.”
According to a report from the Mehr News correspondent, Commander Hossein Ashtari on Sunday stated to a gathering of reporters, “Thanks to the measures taken by FETA [cyber monitoring] police and the cooperation of other security forces, we have found new clues about the elements who made insulting comments against officials and sanctities in Viber which can be presented to he people if the judiciary consents.”