Evidence Of Iran 'Throttling' The Internet Points To An Ingenious Form Of Censorship

iranA woman uses an iMac computer in a shop at a mobile and computer shopping complex in northern Tehran January 18, 2011.

An Internet security expert has published the first evidence that Iran has been dramatically slowing the performance of the country’s Internet to prevent the spread of information during periods of public unrest, reports The Physics arXiv Blog in MIT Technology Review.

“For governments threatened by public expression, the throttling of Internet connectivity appears to be an increasingly preferred and less detectable method of stifling the free flow of information,” says cyber expert Collin Anderson.

Anderson, focusing on publicly-available data gathered from Iran since 2010, says that his results found that clearly show evidence of internet slowing on several periods of tumult.

From November 30, 2011, through August 15, 2012 — while two former presidential candidates who are opposition figure were placed under house arrest — download traffic in the country dropped by 77%.

And during widespread currency protests from October 4 to November 22,2012, the traffic dropped by 69%.

iran internetAn example of the effects of Internet throttling

The Physics arXiv Blog explains why this is a clever idea for oppressive governments:

So-called internet throttling has numerous advantages over a complete shutdown since it constrains protests while allowing vital communications to continue. It is also difficult to distinguish from ordinary disruptions. The result is that throttling is much less likely to lead to widespread condemnation.

Anderson noted that there is an urgent need for better monitoring elsewhere as a growing body of anecdotal evidence suggests that Bahrain, Syria, China (in Tiber), and Myanmar have followed Iran’s lead.

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