How Internet censorship protects Iranian businesses -al Monitor

Given that this is a short article, it provides a fairly detailed look at Iran’s strategy for containing social media. It also makes the somewhat surprising argument that the rational is increasingly economic rather than political:

“These days, social media sites and the Internet in general are increasingly being looked at through an economic lens in Iran. This shift is the result of two main developments: first; the government’s relative success with containing security risks presented by the web, and second, an increasing realization of the business potential of the Internet — including social media.

Iran’s security apparatus has been accumulating the skills and expertise to limit the security risks presented by social media ever since the protests in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election.

In terms of infrastructure, Iran has separated the global Internet from domestic traffic by implementing a national information network. In critical moments, this control enables the authorities to switch off global Internet access without interrupting the domestic network on which day-to-day affairs are run. Having parallel web infrastructure is critical, considering Iran’s increasing dependence on electronic services. For instance, the total electronic financial transactions in Iran in a 24-hour period peaked at 150 million this year on March 19. Consequently, Iran has transferred a major portion of servers and databases from foreign to local firms, resulting in an increase in domestic Internet traffic — from 10% to 30% of overall traffic in May. There are plans to increase domestic traffic to 80% in the near future.

In regard to social media, Iran has been moving in two parallel directions. It has mastered data-mining techniques, enabling it to find potential troublemakers who use the web as a tool for stirring political unrest. This expertise has proven effective, as attested by the tracing and capturing of several cells of online political activists in past years. Iran has also established several organizations to produce online content and fight the political opposition’s activities on the web. These measures have contained short-term security risks to a large extent. However, long-term social and cultural transformations resulting from exposure to online media still remain a concern for the Islamic Republic’s elites.

Read more:

for further reading, see:
Rouhani battles judiciary over Internet censorship
Will Iran’s national internet mean no world wide web?