Lawmaker Says China Can Help Iran Control The Internet
An influential member of the hardliner-dominated Iranian parliament has said that the 25-year strategic cooperation agreement with China will help Iran to establish control over cyberspace.
Mahmoud Nabavian, the chairman of the Article 90 Committee in parliament told Mehr News Agency on Sunday that the Islamic Republic has lost all control over cyberspace, including search engines, social networks and email services.
The Islamic Republic has tried for two decades to block websites and social networks that pose a political threat to the regime. Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and tens-of-thousands of websites are blocked by a vast bureaucracy of cyber police. All citizens use VPNs and other circumvention tools to get access to the Internet.
The Article 90 of the Constitution grants every citizen the right to complain to the corresponding parliamentary committee against the three branches of the government. The remarks about controlling the Internet coming from the Committee chairman is revealing, since he is in charge of protecting citizen rights.
Nabavi also said, “It is very important for us to be able to establish control over our cyberspace with the help of China.” Beijing has been largely successful in controlling dissent on internet through its own vast bureaucracy, but the degree of disenchantment among Chinese who have a strong economy is probably less than among Iranians.
Last week, Iran’s minister of communication and information technology, Mohammad Azari Jahromi had said that the strategic agreement with China will have no impact in limiting internet access.
Iranian authorities have not published the details of the agreement, but they have made references to nine sections, including cooperation in the area of “communications”. But Nabavi said that the agreement also has three appendixes. Some reports have mentioned that one of these has includes an article about “Government control over cyberspace”.
In addition to possible cyber cooperation with China, Iran recently signed an agreement with Russia during Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s recent trip to Moscow. The two countries signed a memorandum for cooperation in cybersecurity and information.
Iran, China and Russia have been criticized by international organizations and human rights groups for controlling access to cyberspace and social media platforms.
At the same time, the three countries are often mentioned for their elaborate cyber intrusions and hacking activities during elections in other countries or against infrastructure and large corporations.