Iran may be in the process of switching off the Internet as we know it and switching over to an nationwide "intranet" that is controlled and approved by their cleric-run government.
Farnaz Fassihi reported in the WallStreet Journal today that Tehran is tightening its control on the citizenry by requiring that Internet cafe owners install surveillance cameras within fifteen days. They will also be required to "start collecting detailed personal information on customers and document users' online footprints."
"The new rules on cybercafes, issued by the Cyber Police and published Wednesday in several Iranian newspapers, require customers at the cafes to provide their name, father's name, address, telephone and national identification numbers before logging on. The venues must install security cameras that will let the government match users to the computer they used. They also must log each user's browsing history, including the IP addresses of every Internet page visited. This data, along with the video images, must be saved for six months and provided to the Cyber Police on demand, according to the regulation."
Internet users in Iran have reported unusual activities this week, including blocked sites, barriers to accessing social-networking services, and generally slow service connections.
The general feeling is that Iran has been readying a conversion to there "halal" (religiously approved) Internet service that will "insulate its citizens from Western ideology and un-Islamic culture, and eventually replace the Internet" entirely.
Iran has long been a place of controversy, silencing dissenters and rigging elections. In 2009, Tehran launched the Cyber Police - the sort of thing that only appears in sci-fi thriller films in the Western world. It is a task force from various security arms of the Tehran government that has trained a quarter of a million agents.
In other words, Iran has it's own Department of Homeland Security with its sights set on the Internet. But, they've enlisted the support of regular citizens, for pay.
The government is reportedly paying people $7/hour to post positive comments online about the government and to flame those who post negative comments. Some 2,000 bloggers have been trained as Cyber Army staff.