I bet the young people of Iran can hardly contain their excitement. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting have just announced the launch of an Iran-only version of the popular video uploading site YouTube. It’s called Mehr and it’s the second video channel accessible only in Iran. Access to YouTube was blocked in 2009 after lots of people posted allegations of vote fraud and election fixing by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Of course there was only circumstantial evidence that the President’s landslide victory was anything but fair, his incredible unpopularity in certain areas didn’t seem to materialize in the ballot box.
Mehr is Farsi for ‘affection’ although I wouldn’t test that principle out by posting anything remotely critical of Ahmadinejad or his regime on the site. The problem that Iran has, and in fact any despotic regime – is that it’s extremely difficult to censor or filter specific parts of the internet. They couldn’t for example just block access to the various videos they don’t like on YouTube or Facebook as it would be impossible to keep track of the content. Blocking the whole of YouTube stops lots of people gaining access within Iran but not all, increasingly people are using circumvention tools to bypass these filters.
Using proxies or VPNs you can bypass these specific filters and the ‘video not available in your country‘ messages and many thousands of Iranians do just that. Unfortunately there is one way to control all access to the internet and that’s to block it completely. It’s the sort of model that you see in North Korea, where the internet is merely a basic intranet consisting of Government created websites with all access to the outside world blocked. It is suspected widely that Iran is heading in this direction with the creation of these internal versions of popular sites.
The Iranian government are frequently complaining about the way they are portrayed by bloggers, the media and journalists in general – so it is invitable that the current regime will pull the plug at some point if they stay in power. Anyway there’s no point posting the link to the Mehr website but relishing the irony I will post a link to the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran also known as MEHR.