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
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
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
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
“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. 365Gay.com
was also unblocked but remains inaccessible within Iran.
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