Iran Uses Tech Tools To Censor Dissent

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Chris Car Ison/AP

In Iran, protesters are using social-networking sites to contest the recent presidential election. But according to a report in Monday's Wall Street Journal, every e-mail, video and tweet that makes it out of Iran has likely passed through a new system the government put in place to filter dissent.

The system is called "deep-packet inspection," Christopher Rhoads, a technology reporter for the newspaper, tells Melissa Block. It involves the insertion of hardware into the flow of online data, allowing Tehran to search each and every digital packet of information for keywords. References to "democracy" or "protest" could raise red flags, allowing the government to then do one of three things: block the e-mail or Web site; allow the data through the system, but monitor its progress and those who come in contact with it; or alter the data.

For example, a Twitter message about an upcoming protest could be rewritten with a different time or location to hamper the protest before it even begins.

Rhoads says Iran acquired the filtering technology from two companies: Nokia of Finland and Siemens of Germany. Both companies are now "backpedaling a little bit," he says.

But it's clear, he says, from materials published by the companies themselves that, whether or not Iran is using these technologies to monitor its citizens, that is exactly what the products were designed to do.

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