[IRP] Iranian Police Set Up 'Internet Crime' Unit

Rebecca MacKinnon rebecca.mackinnon
Mon Nov 16 11:21:42 EET 2009

Iranian Police Set Up 'Internet Crime' Unit
By Edward Yeranian
14 November 2009

An Iranian youth browses a political blog at an internet cafe in the city
of Hamadan (May 2009 file photo)
A top Iranian police official says that a new police unit has been set up
to combat what he calls "Internet crime". Analysts, however, are
interpreting the move as another step by the government to crack down on
the opposition, which uses the Internet heavily to communicate and spread
its message.

Iran's top police chief, Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam says
that his organization is setting up a "cyber police division" to combat
what he terms "Internet crime."

Fars News Agency reported that Ahmadi-Moqaddam complained that "Internet
crime" was on the rise and that the Iranian police must "increase its
capabilities to counter such violations."

Iranian law mixes activities such as theft, fraud and forgery, with more
subtle and often political activities lumped together under the categories
"defamation and mischief." The latter two categories have analysts

Police Colonel Mehrdad Omidi, who runs the Internet crime division, stated
in the Iranian press, Saturday, that what he calls "insults and spreading
of lies," would be fought vigorously.

He also noted that a 12-member commission would now be involved in
policing "political matters on the internet." He said , given the spread
of Internet use, police must confront crimes taking police in the Web

Most Iranian opposition Web sites, including those of top leaders Mir
Hossein Mousavi and Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi are considered illegal and are
now blocked inside Iran.

Reza Moini of Paris-based NGO Reporters Without Borders says that Iran's
Revolutionary Guards are increasingly taking over internet surveillance
from other government agencies:

He says that there are several points to stress: notably that when the
Iranian parliament ratified the Internet law there were several
institutions put in charge of surveillance, but now, with the opposition
movement continuing unabated, the regime is concerned that the Internet is
playing a key role in informing people and spreading information. This, he
says, is where the police are becoming involved, and he says, by police,
what is meant is the "Guardians of the Revolution," who are increasingly
trying to seize the lead.

The Intelligence Ministry has clamped down on both the Internet and on
mobile phone communications during opposition demonstrations to disrupt
communications. Opposition activists complain that internet speeds were
brought to dismally slow levels and that they were forced to use proxies
to prevent their IP addresses from being detected.

Still, many popular opposition sites, like Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook
Web page, get thousands of visitors daily and put out up-to-the-minute
bulletins of opposition activities.

One well-known young opposition activist, Mohammed Reza Jalaiepour, who
was later arrested by the government, placed this emotional confession
about why he joined the opposition on Mousavi's Facebook Web site.

Reza Moini says that there are a handful of Internet activists and website
creators who have been arrested by the government and are now languishing
in prison.

Police Colonel Omidi insists that Iranian government authorities will
intervene in political matters on the Internet if there has been an
illegal act.

Iranian intellectuals and opposition activists remain in contact with each
other and with the outside world by posting comments and information about
their activities on Web sites both inside and outside Iran. Many complain
that they live in fear of being detected by the government and arrested.

IMPORTANT: My Hong Kong University e-mail (rmack at hku.hk) will stop working
in January. Please use my gmail instead (see below).

Rebecca MacKinnon
Open Society Fellow | Co-founder, GlobalVoicesOnline.org
Assistant Professor, Journalism & Media Studies Centre, University of Hong

UK: +44-7759-863406
USA: +1-617-939-3493
HK: +852-6334-8843
Mainland China: +86-13710820364

E-mail: rebecca.mackinnon at gmail.com
Blog: http://RConversation.blogs.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/rmack
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