Last edited: July 31, 2005

Iran Accused of Isolating Gays, June 27, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—Iran, according to a new report is “one of the world’s most substantial Internet censorship regimes.”

The study, by the OpenNet Initiative—a university-based project sponsored by Harvard University, the University of Toronto and Cambridge University among others—says that Iran “has adopted this extensive filtering regime at a time of extraordinary growth in Internet usage among its citizens and a burst of growth in writing online in the Farsi language.”

Of the sites tested by ONI, approximately 34 percent were blocked. A large number of those sites had gay and lesbian content including sites with news and HIV/AIDS information.

Testing showed that online content in the Farsi language is more likely to be blocked than is comparable content in the English language.

That, according to international LGBT rights groups, effectively prevents gay Iranians from organizing or communicating. In a society where homosexuality is outlawed and most gays are deeply closeted the online blocking further isolates gays.

Other sites being blocked include those promoting democracy and women’s rights sites.

The ONI study found that Iran uses the commercial filtering package SmartFilter—made by the U.S.-based company, Secure Computing—as the primary technical engine of its filtering system. This commercial software product is configured as part of the Iranian filtering system to block both internationally-hosted sites in English and locally hosted sites in local languages.

“Our report on Iranian filtering of the Internet shows that not only are freedom of speech and access to information under threat, but that there is a growing commercial market for the technologies that diminish them,” said Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, University of Toronto.

“By providing filtering systems to non-democratic regimes, the U.S. company, Secure Computing, is complicit in Iranian breaches of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.”

China had been the leader in blocking Web sites that it deemed inappropriate. After it was slammed in an international human rights report for denying access by its citizens to sites for gays that included HIV/AIDS information the country last week removed its blocking of the country’s largest LGBT site. was also unblocked but remains inaccessible within Iran.

[Home] [Iran] [World]