Embargoing free speech



Hossein Derakhshan (aka Hoder) is reporting that a BBC Persian article states that U.S.-based web hosting companies are terminating the accounts of Iranian, the latest being the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) which is used by what Hossein characterizes as “mostly secular, freedom-loving Iranian youth”. This is important because a considerable percentage of .ir ccTLDs are hosted in the U.S. (according to my latest project which is still heavily in development 20% of .ir domains are hosted in the U.S., 40% are hosted in Iran).

Since 1980 the U.S. has imposed an embargo on Iran restricting certain economic activities between the two countries, the embargo has been modified over the years but continues to be renewed based on the U.S. belief that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism. The restrictions cover the import and export of specific goods and services, financial dealings and economic activity related to Iranís petroleum industry. There are also specific regulations that cover the export of encryption to Iran. Despite the embargo many companies continue to do business with and in Iran. However, there is an exemption for the importation of “Information or informational materials”, which the content of a web site may fall into, but a restriction on the export of “technology or services” which the actual web hosting may fall into.

As Hoder points out, the U.S. is concerned that the Internet “allows terrorists to reach a wide audience of potential donors and recruits who may be located over a large geographic area.” In fact, the State Departmentís list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations includes four websites: newkach.org, Kahane.org, Kahane.net and Kahanetzadak.com. Two of the four websites are still active and hosted in the U.S., no action has been taken against them despite the fact that they are officially designated as terrorist organizations.*

Despite the Bush administrationís rhetoric of freedom, it seems that Iranian websites are being targeted for closure. Freedom of speech (especially on the internet) is too often understood as a one way street: accessing information. But it is in fact a bi-direction flow of information where publishing is as important as access. The current U.S. embargo seems to be stifling rather than promoting free speech by silencing Iranians that publish, deny us their critical view point. (The “access” side of the equation has had problems too.) Even the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Shirin Ebadi, cannot publish her book in the U.S. because of the embargo. The embargo on free speech has to end.

* Websites listed as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department:

newkach.org
– status: inactive
– ip: 64.57.95.92

From WHOIS:

OrgName: Blue Gravity Communications, Inc.
OrgID: BGC
Address: 3495 Haddonfield Rd, Suite 6
City: Pennsauken
StateProv: NJ
PostalCode: 08109
Country: US

Kahane.org
– status: active
– ip: 67.153.104.163

From WHOIS:

OrgName: Internet Allegiance, Inc.
OrgID: IALG
Address: 1950 Stemmons Freeway
City: Dallas
StateProv: TX
PostalCode: 75207
Country: US

Kahane.net
– status: inactive
– ip: 204.251.15.167

From WHOIS:

Sprint SPRINT-BLKD (NET-204-248-0-0-1)
204.248.0.0 – 204.251.255.255
Datasync Internet Services FON-343900160058100 (NET-204-251-0-0-1)
204.251.0.0 – 204.251.15.255
Zipa, LLC I55-ZIPA-2 (NET-204-251-7-0-1)
204.251.7.0 – 204.251.15.255

Kahanetzadak.com
– status: active
– ip: 65.61.216.42

From WHOIS:

In2net Network Inc. IN2NETWORK (NET-65-61-192-0-1)
65.61.192.0 – 65.61.255.255
Doteasy Technology Inc. IN2NET-65-61-216-0 (NET-65-61-216-0-1)
65.61.216.0 – 65.61.216.255

One comment.

  1. […] Ok, back to the subject. Free Speech on the internet. Well, I have chosen a new ‘blog’ on the subject. It is called ICE, which stands for Internet Censorship Explorer. Perhaps a spoof on the one and only, your favourite and mine Microsoft’s Internet Explorer who incidently is getting hit for censorship in regards to dropping a Chinese journalist’s blog, stating something about Chinese Law. […]

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