Iran’s ‘Halal Internet’ is really a ‘Filternet’

By: Neal Ungerleider Fast Company

imagesIran’s long-awaited “national Internet” appears to now be online–instead of a sealed-off nation-wide intranet, Iran’s government is now slowing access to verboten foreign websites and blocking VPNs.

Iran appears to have quietly launched their “Halal Internet”–a closed-off, heavily censored national Internet free of the corrupting influence of foreign websites. In preparation for the country’s national elections on June 14, access speeds for foreign sites have slowed to a crawl. Access speeds for domestic sites, however, remain normal.

Although the Halal Internet was originally conceived as a national intranet that would serve as a standalone network similar to old-school, pre-Internet AOL & Compuserve, it appears the finished model is more improvisational. Instead of hermetically sealing off Iran’s websites from the outside world, gratuitous packet loss, website blocking, and VPN blocking measures are being used to discourage access to foreign websites.

Instead of a concerted effort similar to China’s “Great Firewall,” the new Internet censorship regime in Iran is more disorganized. Instead of calling it the Halal Internet, wags are now calling it “the Filternet,” and are turning to Twitter to report workaround tips. Due to the censorship efforts, nearly a million Iranians used VPNGATE last week to access the outside world.