Letter suggests Iran will only let citizens access whitelisted foreign websites

Following an internet shutdown, the Iranian government has sent a letter to state-run companies asking them what foreign websites they rely on.

The Iranian government cut off internet access for a week earlier this month amid protests against increasing fuel prices.

Experts believe the letter to state-run organisations suggests Tehran is planning to implement a whitelist of sites that citizens can access as part of a wider internet clampdown.

Amir Nazemi, head of Iran’s Information Technology Organisation, sent the letter and said to the BBC that he was "obliged to make sure vital services were available" and wants other government officials to be aware of how the decision affected the economy.

Iran, which has become increasingly isolated amid several international sanctions, has expressed a desire to create a “national internet” since 2005. The idea is to reduce outside influence and information by building copycats of popular foreign services.

A national firewall similar to China’s infamous “Great Firewall” has been implemented in Iran for internet censorship and blocks access to popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many international news outlets.

On Monday, US Senator Ted Cruz wrote to President Trump calling for sanctions to be imposed on Iranian officials responsible for the internet shutdown:

ted-cruz-internet-shutdown-iran

Iran’s letter to state-run organisations has come to light mere days after web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee launched a “Contract for the Web” to help protect its core values. Among the key principles is preventing governments from cutting off internet access.

Signatories of Berners-Lee’s contract include companies like Microsoft, Reddit, Google, and Facebook; organisations like the EFF and Web Foundation; and even some countries like Germany, France, and Ghana.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Wikimedia Foundation was a signatory of the contract. The Wikimedia Foundation was part of the working group that helped to develop the contract but not a signatory to the final document. We've reached out for further details as to why the Foundation decided against signing the contract.

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