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<nettime> Iranonymity
Bruce Sterling on Mon, 1 Sep 2003 23:20:27 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Iranonymity

*One wonders what the strategic Iranian infowar response
to this should be. Maybe "Americanonymity."  -- bruces


US sponsors Anonymiser - if you live in Iran
By Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus
Posted: 29/08/2003 at 15:26 GMT

  A pact between the U.S. government and the electronic privacy company 
Anonymizer, Inc. is making the Internet a safer place for controversial 
websites and subversive opinions -- if you're Iranian.

This month Anonymizer began providing Iranians with free access to a Web 
proxy service designed to circumvent their government's online censorship 
efforts. In May, government ministers issued a blacklist of 15,000 
forbidden "immoral" websites that ISPs in the country must block -- 
reportedly a mix of adult sites and political news and information outlets.
  An estimated two million Iranians have Internet access.

Among the banned sites are the website for the U.S.-funded Voice of America 
broadcast service, and the site for Radio Farda, another U.S. station that 
beams Iranian youth a mix of pop music and westernized news. Both stations 
are run by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), the U.S. government'
s overseas news and propaganda arm.

The U.S. responded to the filtering this month by paying Anonymizer 
(neither the IBB nor Anonymizer will disclose how much) to create and 
maintain a special version of the Anonymizer proxy which only accepts 
connections from Iran's IP address space, and features instructions in 

The deliberately generic-sounding URLs for the service are publicized over 
Radio Farda broadcasts and through bulk e-mails that Anonymizer sends to 
addresses in the country. The addresses are provided by human rights groups 
and other sources, says Anonymizer president Lance Cottrell.

"We're providing a system whereby the people in the countries that are 
suffering Internet censorship can bypass the government filtering and 
access all the pages that are blocked," says Cottrell.

The services' navigation boxes default to Radio Farda or Voice of America,
  but surfers are invited to put in any address they like, and browse free 
of the Iranian government's filtering.

"Dissident sites, religious sites, the L.L. Bean catalog -- we point them 
to the Voice of America site, but they can go anywhere," says Ken Berman, 
program manager for Internet anticensorship at the IBB, "They're free 
explore the Internet in an unfettered fashion."

Mostly unfettered. Like the Iranian filters, the U.S. service blocks porn 
sites -- "There's a limit to what taxpayers should pay for," says Berman. 
But the United States' hope is that a freer flow of online information will 
improve America's image in the Arab world. The service is similar to one 
Anonymizer provided to Chinese citizens under a previous government 
contract that ran-out ended earlier this year.

Cottrell and Berman agree that it's only a matter of time before the 
Iranonymity service winds on the official blacklist. But Berman hints that 
the U.S. is ready for a prolonged electronic shell game with Tehran. "In 
China we're continually monitoring the state of the proxy, and when we see 
the traffic drop off, we change the proxy's address, usually within 24 
hours," says Berman. "In Iran, we're prepared to change the proxy address 
every day if necessary."

A bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month would 
create an Office of Global Internet Freedom that would have up to a $50 
million annual budget to help citizens of foreign repressive governments 
skirt Internet censorship.

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