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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Iran's Response to the Internet

Several factors contributed to this rapid growth. The demographic terrain of Iran provided fertile soil for growth. The average age in Iran is only 28.13 This young population is much better educated than that before the revolution due to Ayatollah Khomeini’s emphasis on universal education.14 Another contributing factor is the urbanization of Iran. Close to 70% of the population lives in cities. While 22% of the households in Iran have computers, the same is true of almost 40% of households in Tehran.15 In addition, Tehran boasted approximately 1,500 cybercafés by 2003.16 Still, even the rural populations are beginning to gain access to the Internet. By attending universities in larger cities, younger rural Iranians come to use and depend on the Internet, and employ the technology at home, thereby exposing their families to the outside world at unprecedented levels.17

Initially, this expansion was not only tolerated by the government, but actively encouraged. The Islamic Republic was unwilling to forgo the benefits of the Internet in order to maintain tight control. For example, ISPs were allowed to operate without serious interference from the late 1990s until 2003.18 At that point, Iran had 650 ISPs, the largest of which was the Data Communication Company of Iran (DCI), a company run by the Ministry for Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The OpenNet Initiative (ONI),19 reported that in 2004, the Majlis20 passed Iran’s fourth Five-Year Development Plan calling for 1.5 million high-speed Internet ports throughout the country.21 These policies can be explained by a widespread belief that technological advances would help Iran overcome its economic difficulties.22 However, they also grew out of the belief of the clerical establishment that the Internet could be used to stimulate Islamic dialogue and spread revolutionary ideology.23

1.2. Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is universally recognized as a fundamental human right. It is considered as much a right of the audience to seek and receive information as of those engaging in expression. In 1948, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights recognized that

[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

[13]See Markaz-i Amar-i Iran: Miyangin-i Sinniyih Jam’iyat-i Iran dar Dah Sal-i Guzashtih az Hudud-i 24 Sal bih Marz-i 28 Sal Risidih Ast [Iranian Census Bureau: In the Last 10 Years the Average Age in Iran Has Increased from 24 Years to 28 Years], BBC PERSIAN, available (in Persian) at http://www.ettelaat.net/07-september/news.asp?id=23991 (last visited Apr. 15, 2009).
[14]MEHDI SEMATI, MEDIA, CULTURE AND SOCIETY IN IRAN: LIVING WITH GLOBALIZATION AND THE ISLAMIC STATE, at 1, 8 (2008).
[15]See Markaz-i Amar-i Iran: Miyangin-i Sinniyih Jam’iyat-i Iran dar Dah Sal-i Guzashtih az Hudud-i 24 Sal bih Marz-i 28 Sal Risidih Ast [Iranian Census Bureau: In the Last 10 Years the Average Age in Iran Has Increased from 24 Years to 28 Years], BBC PERSIAN, available (in Persian) at http://www.ettelaat.net/07-september/news.asp?id=23991 (last visited Apr. 15, 2009); see also MARKAZ-I AMAR-I IRAN, NATAYIJ-I SARSHUMARIYIH UMUMIYIH NUFUS VA MASKAN: JADAVIL-I MUNTAKHAB [IRAN CENSUS BUREAU, CENSUS RESULTS RELATING TO THE POPULATION AND HOUSEHOLDS] 1385 [2006], available (in Persian) at http://www.sci.org.ir/portal/faces/public/census85/census85.natayej (last visited Apr. 15, 2009).
[16]OPENNET INITIATIVE , supra note 11, at 4.
[17]Rahimi, supra note 9, at 41.
[18]Id. at 42.
[19]ONI is an organization that investigates, exposes and analyzes Internet filtering and surveillance practices.
[20]The Majlis is the parliamentary legislative body in Iran.
[21]OPENNET INITIATIVE , supra note 12, at 2.
[22]Rahimi, supra note 9, at 40.
[23]See id. at 42.

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Free Speech, Right to Protest, Cyber Journalism, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Free Association, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination