Censored in Iran, Deleted in USA



The blocking of websites by national filtering systems make content unavailable to those in such countries, but the deletion of content makes it unavailable to all. The blog of my friend Hossein was recently shutdown due to legal threats, making it unavailable to all while it was previously only censored in Iran.

(Hossein’s update on the situation follows below.)

Threatening ISP’s with “take down” requests is one of the most undocumented methods of censoring Internet content. Some sites, such as ChillingEffects document this to some degree but most cases occur in silence. Since much of it is related to copyright violations or terrorism few are paying close attention. Libel and defamation cases are more notable especially the cases in Malaysia and Singapore.

While it is possible to detect and monitor censorship via internet filtering, as I do for the OpenNet Initiative, it is much more difficult to enumerate content that is simply removed by service providers.

Dear friends,

While everyone is on holidays, a new blow to online free speech has taken place and I would like to share it with you and ask for help..

Last Friday, I was kicked out of my hosting company (Florida-based Hosting Matters), as a result of a legal notice sent by Mehdi Khalaji, an Iranian fellow at a neo-conservative think-tank (Washington Institute for the Near East Policy with Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and James Woolsey on its advisory board).

Mhedi Khalaji’s lawyer has sent a notice to my hosting company and also my domain registrar, Go Daddy, asking them to a) remove any ‘defamatory’ material about him, b) make me publish an apology, and c) pay $10,000 for the claimed damages

The lawyers claim are based on a mistranslation of a post I had written a few months ago about Khalaji and his support for a disgusting anti-Iranian campaign (http://www.afpc.org/IFI/iranfreedom.shtml) at another neo-conservative think-tank (American Foreign Policy Council) and his counsel to a think-tank with a clear agenda to overthrow the Iranian government by an economic warfare or a military attack.

The hosting company, clearly intimidated, asked me (documented below) to remove that specific post and also any material related to Mehdi Khalaji, since they didn’t have enough resources to figure if they were actually defamatory or not.

I removed the mentioned post, but resisted against such strange request to remove anything I had written, mentioning Mehdi Khalaji.

Then last Friday, I noticed that the hosting company had actually removed, from my web serve and even my blogging software’s database, any post where Mehdi Khalaji was named in English.

After threatening me not to disclose what the hosting company did, and after a few email exchanges, they terminated my account.

I have now migrated to a new hosting company, outside the United States, still struggling to get my numerous domain names, databases and online applications back and running.

This is a threat to all of us who write anything online these days. If someone could silence whatever he or she didn’t like, even before a court order and based on intimidating hosting and domain registrar companies and based on mistranslated material, we would all going to be in big trouble soon.

It’s all quite ironic that the way I am treated in the United States (by being kicked out of my servers) is worse than that in the Islamic Republic of Iran (by filtering my blog and forcing me to sign apology when I was last in Tehran). Ever more ironic is that a blog I was editing to cover internet censorship in Iran has also been shut down.

Please feel free to blog this and spread the word any way you can. I’ll keep you post about the new developments by email, and as well on my temporary blog on blogspot (http://hodertempblog.blogspot.com).

Here are the supporting documents:

1) The initial legal notice from Khalaji’s lawyer:

http://hoder.com/weblog/images/khalajithreat.pdf

2) Email exchange with the hosting company led to termination of my accounts:

http://hodertemp.blogspot.com/2007/08/accounts-and-billing-hosting-matters.html

3) My trouble with Islamic Republic of Iran’s authorities:

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2006/03/70522

Warm regards,
Hossein Derakhshan

14 comments.

  1. I don’t know why Mr. Derakhshan didn’t say which specific post on Khalaji was mistranslated. As a person who can read Persian, I could not find anything tha justifies Mr. Derakhshan’s claim on mistranslation.
    Interestingly enough he says “Ever more ironic is that a blog I was editing to cover internet censorship in Iran has also been shut down.”. Well, this website was shout down by Mr. Derakhshan himself! and here is the last post on this website in where he clearly says that he has decided to shout down the website.!
    Well, I hope this information will help “the friends” to see thye bigger picture:

    Therefore, although this website has not been updated for almost a year, I now officially shut it down.

    here is the whole article:
    “Dear Readers,

    Internet censorship exists in Iran, as it does in many other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East.

    But it has recently become another pretext for the American Empire to further demonise the government of Iran.

    Despite all problems and challenges, I believe that Islamic Republic is a legitimate, sovereign and democratic system and I reject any attempts to participate in such nasty demonising campaigns, which ultimately try to justify the Western intervention.

    I believe that Internet censorship is an internal problem and the only way to solve it should also come and develop from within. Taking such efforts beyond Iran and into the international scene will benefit the American politicians more than the Iranian internet users.

    Therefore, although this website has not been updated for almost a year, I now officially shut it down.

    I should thank Sanam Dolatshahi and and PY whose help in the final months was very important and much appreciated.

    If I have time and energy, I will relaunch the website in Persian with the same focus on Internet censorship in Iran, but this time in a local scale because of the language.

    Best,”

  2. I wonder if you yourself censor comments! I’ve left a comment yesterday and I can’t see it! Good luck.

  3. 1. I moderate the comments for spam. They are held in a queue until approved.

    2. Hossein closed stop.censoring.us as a political protest. That his protest message was deleted is censorship regardless of whether he had stopped updating the site or not.

  4. “Hossein closed stop.censoring.us as a political protest.”
    Political protest to whom? I bet it was not the Iranian authorities. After all they are the same people who are sought to financially support him. link
    “I am starting to think that whoever is willing to pay me that money, I don’t care who they are. It can be a scholarship from the US, or the European Union, or the UK, or even the Islamic Republic. I have sent emails and have called everyone I knew in every places. There is no hope yet….I wish it was like the Shah’s time that the regime would support opposition students to go abroad and study. I wish the Islamic Republic, which is using our oil money, would be so tolerant to give financial support to any Iranian who was willing to get back to the country, whether or not they said their prayers, or supported the veil, or ate alcohol and pork, or supported the ideology of the Islamic Republic”.

  5. Did you not read the text of what you posted in your comment #1?

  6. Of course I read it. It obviously says it was not updatd for moe than
    one year. But it was not because of any political protest. Because last year he was trying to raise fund to it.(link)
    Well, nobody took it seriously. Later on it was shut down by Mr. Derakhshan.
    Now he’s busy of raising fund for his other projects, namely his education. Of course someone who seeks financial support from I.R can’t cover the violation of free speech and censorship there in Iran.

  7. stop.censoring.us was an important resource. Content from it considerably aided my ability to test Internet censorship in Iran despite the fact that it was not updated frequently. It was taken seriously by me and by the OpenNet Initiative and is sourced in some of our reports.

    I’m fairly certain that Hossein will continue to cover issues of free speech and internet censorship in Iran, albeit from a perspective you don’t seem to be inclined to agree with.

  8. Hoder says: “I believe that Internet censorship is an internal problem” and “Taking such efforts beyond Iran and into the international scene will benefit the American politicians more than the Iranian internet users.
    Then what do you mean exactly by telling us that “it was taken seriously by me and by the OpenNet Initiative and is sourced in some of our reports“? Are you in ICE trying to benfit the American politicians?!, assuming that you agree with mr. Derakhshan.

  9. In regard to stop.censoring.us you said “Well, nobody took it seriously.”

    I said, I took it seriously and it was used as a source in at least two OpenNet reports:

    http://opennet.net/studies/iran/
    http://opennet.net/bulletins/004/

    You are wrong.

  10. Whether or not I agree with Hossein’s views in the protest post on stop.censoring.us it is his right to express himself. I believe that his protest closure is significant, as was a similar protest by Chinese bloggers. But I am not going to stop testing, exposing and challenging Internet censorship if that’s what you are implying.

  11. In regard to stop.censoring.us you said “Well, nobody took it seriously.
    When I said nobody took it seriously, I meant nobody did a penny for his fund-raising!
    But I am not going to stop testing, exposing and challenging Internet censorship if that’s what you are implying. no. I’m happy to see that you don’t agree with Derakhshan. sencorship is not an internal issue and i’m happy that you here in ICE doing a good job.
    But back to my first point: stop.sencoring.us was shut down by Hoder himself before his other websites – and including this protest letter- was shut down by his hosting company.

  12. Fund raising for anti-censorship projects is difficult, you should not underestimate this.

    Hossein replaced the front page of stop.censoring.us with a protest message as a result of the legal threats the page became no longer available. The content of the message is not relevant to this fact.

    I will blog my thoughts on the content at another time, now I will support Hossein’s right to freedom of expression at this critical time.

  13. [...] service should raise red flags within the Anti-Censorship community.” In another post “Censored in Iran, Deleted in USA“, Villeneuve, who is also documenting Internet content filtering and surveillance practices [...]

  14. Why censor the internet in Iran? We are able to get around it. I have know about Hossein’s flight and have tried to do my part.

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