A number of websites and Iranian Internet users are reportedly receiving error messages when trying to visit major websites from within the country, including Google, Yahoo and online banking websites.
Iranian users suspect that it is the result of a government-imposed block in advance of the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, celebrated beginning February 11 and throughout the rest of the month. As such, the block isn’t expected to be lifted until March, according to Kabir News.
The Iranian government appears to be making a pre-emptive attempt to head off dissent by reform and pro-democracy advocates. Protesters, many of whom organized online, took to the streets last year, beginning February 14, 2011, to demonstrate against the regime and in solidarity with the uprisings sweeping Tunisia and Egypt. While those protests weren’t quite as large, dramatic or violent as the protests that followed Iran’s disputed 2009 election, in which Twitter played a crucial role, they were still a blight on the regime.
The commonality between all the websites that won’t load this time around is that they all use the HTTPS secure protocol, an alternate version of the standard “HTTP” protocol that allows websites to keep information entered by users secure, obscuring it in a code.
The block also reportedly extends to to other encrypted traffic, the Verge reported, including proxy servers that many use inside Iran to evade the longstanding, ever-present censorship of some Western websites. The freeware anonymizing network Tor is also reporting that it’s main website, Tor.org, has been partially blocked in Iran, but the majority of users haven’t been affected.
Meanwhile, the Iran Media Program, a website founded by the University of Pennsylvania to keep tabs on the flow of information (or lack thereof) throughout Iran, reported that “Some of the relatives of BBC Persian’s London-based staff members have been detained and threatened by Iranian intelligence agents. One BBC Persian employee was subjected to an online interrogation in London after a family member in Iran was jailed.”
Curiously, the website Herdict.com, which monitors global internet access on a country-by-country basis, isn’t reporting a markedly increased level of inaccessibility in Iran, although it could take time to update to reflect the recent reported blockages.