Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Look at Iran's Blogosphere

The New York Times/International Herald Tribune takes a fascinating look at the state of Iranian blogging:

Troll through the Iranian blogosphere and you can find all manner of unexpectedly harsh critiques denouncing the government of the Islamic republic, from reformists who revile it as well as conservatives who support it.

One conservative blogger deplored the rampant inflation undermining the middle class, saying it forced girls into prostitution to support their families. Others identified themselves as fans of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, yet they condemned government corruption and what they called arbitrary arrests. A fourth declared that government statistics were a lot of nonsense.

What gets filtered out is not entirely predictable, either. Even some religious topics are deemed unacceptable. The government blocked the site of a blogger advocating the Shiite Muslim custom of temporary marriage, which is legal and considered a way for the young to relieve their sexual frustration without breaking religious laws.

Over all, a new study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School shows that Iran's blogosphere mirrors the erratic, fickle and often startling qualities of life in the Islamic republic itself. The rules of what is permissible fluctuate with maddening imprecision, so people test the limits.

The Berkman Center report is available from their web site. If the Times article summarizing it is correct, Iran's efforts at online censorship are not nearly as comprehensive or effective as people like myself have believed. Hopefully, blogging will continue to provide a forum for opposition to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "Second Islamic Cultural Revolution".


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