Censorship Policy and Circumvention Response in Iran

Raising awareness to the competition that occurs between Iran's Internet censorship policies and circumvention responses to "just-in-time" information controls.

Political events, such as elections, cause changes in how and when a country implements or heightens Information controls. Iran is no different to this practice. Since the events surrounding the post-2009 elections, Internet controls in Iran have not only intensified (read: "After the Green Movement: Internet Controls in Iran, 2009-2012") but also adjusted to control flow of information around politically sensitive events. Collin Anderson's three-year dataset of network measurements research in "Dimming the Internet: Detecting Throttling as a Mechanism of Censorship in Iran" explains how Iran has used network disruptions around sensitive political events to control and limit access to information online.

The Open Net Initiative, documenting Internet filtering globally since 2003, has also observed how different countries have "disrupted or tampered with communication networks for political purposes, including around elections and public demonstrations." Calling this practice "Just-in-Time Information Controls", where control of information is targeted for certain time-periods when access to information online would have the greatest potential impact. (Source: Global Internet filtering in 2012 at a glance)

Information Controls: Iran's Presidential Elections is a collaboration between ASL19 and Psiphon. It evaluates the role and impact of information controls during the Iranian Presidential elections in 2013. This report utilizes a mixed method analysis of information controls during the 2013 Presidential elections by measuring access to circumvention technology (Psiphon3 usage) in relation to key political events within the election process. Findings in this report show a strong correlation between significant political events and the tampering with the flow of information by the authorities during the election process. For example, Psiphon3 data shows that deep packet inspection was implemented just days before registration of presidential candidates and network throttling started on the day of announcing qualified candidates. You can read the full election report here.

To continue this research, ASL19 and the Citizen Lab are working jointly on a follow-on to this report which will expand the analysis presented in this report.

The following chart is an overview of Psiphon3 usage between March 1 - August 30, 2013:

Psiphon3's Daily Unique Users and Page Views

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