Introducing ‘Chaos and Control:The Competing Tensions of Internet Governance in Iran’

Check out the latest report from Small Media, “Chaos and Control: The Competing Tensions of Internet Governance in Iran.” The report examines the international backdrop of internet governance against which Iran’s internet regulations are formulated.This project was undertaken with support from the Internet Policy Observatory. Click here to view the full report.

We’re very excited to present our new report, ‘Chaos and Control: The Competing Tensions of Internet Governance in Iran’, which explores the Islamic Republic’s participation in the global conversation on internet governance.

Our report offers a comprehensive overview of Iran’s engagements with internet governance issues by tracking Iran’s public statements at internet governance forums, studying its delegations to international events, and comparing its international policy stances against its domestic practices.

The report also examines the Iranian public’s engagement with internet governance issues, and the state of multistakeholderism in Iran. The report achieves this by monitoring Iranian press coverage of internet governance debates and appraising Iran’s emerging domestic multistakeholder initiatives.

Here are some of our key findings:


Iran’s primary objective has been to challenge existing internet governance structures, most notably the United States’ privileged position vis-à-vis the IANA and ICANN

Iran has achieved some notable political victories in its campaign against the internet governance status quo. But its victories have ultimately proven hollow, and have failed to secure widespread international backing for Iran’s position.


Secondary objectives have included international development and expansion of filtering capabilities

Iran has consistently stressed its dedication to the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, with the Khatami, Ahmadinejad and Rouhani administrations each clearly advocating for the expansion of internet access in Iran, including ambitious initiatives in rural regions.


It is too simplistic to say that Iran allies only with authoritarian countries on internet governance issues—it also partners with democratic nations from the Global South

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Iran’s most consistent partners have been authoritarian nations (with Russia the most ‘reliable’). However, Iran has also participated in loose coalitions with democratic developing nations like Brazil, despite the nature of their opposition to the existing ICANN regime differing substantively.

Even amongst authoritarian nations, evidence suggests that policy is only very loosely coordinated at the inter-state level.


Public discourse around internet governance issues in Iran remains generally underdeveloped, and the quantity and quality of media coverage is lacking

Press coverage of core internet governance issues and events remains scarce, and is generally relegated to niche outlets targeted at the tech community. When internet governance topics do infiltrate the mainstream media, coverage is frequently politicized, and framed entirely around the perceived hegemony of the United States.


Internet governance is essentially a government-monopolized initiative in Iran, with civil society generally excluded from decision-making processes. However, recent events have suggested that the government may be willing to engage with domestic multistakeholder processes at some level

Historically, the state has played a dominant role in debating, making, and executing internet governance policy in Iran. Civil society groups have been broadly excluded from Iran’s delegations to internet governance forums since the beginning of the Ahmadinejad administration.


But things might be changing. Although Iranian domestic internet governance initiatives have so far been poorly attended, the government’s willingness to allow tech experts to take the lead in such initiatives may pave the way for greater levels of engagement with multistakeholder processes.


By Small Media 


Click here to view the full report.



Featured Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by comeonandorra

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