Momen-Nasab: Beware the evils of Google+!

Source: IT Development and Digital Media Center , Date: 19 July 2011

In an interview with Neday-e Enghelab website Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, Head of the Internet Division of the IT Development and Digital Media Center of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, warned Iranian Internet users about the dangers of Google+, the new social-network by Google.

Momen-Nasab categorized the dangers of Google+, and social-networks in general, as being twofold. First, he accused social-networks in general, and Google+ in particular, of spying by collecting individuals’ personal information and putting them at the disposal of Western intelligence agencies. Second, he placed social-networks in the context of what the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) calls the West’s Tahajom-e Farhangi or “Cultural Assault” which he believes destroys people’s privacy and undermines social values.

He concluded his interview by saying that it is the responsibility of all Iranians to warn their friends, family and acquaintances about the dangers of Google+ and social-networks. Stating that Iranian authorities would be filtering social-networks, he pointed out that it would thus be illegal and immoral for individuals to partake in them. Finally he called on experts to submit ideas and plans to the government in order to counter social-networks.

While Momen-Nasab did not directly address it, the subtext of the interview was the ability of social-networks to connect people and possibly lead to large gatherings which result in demonstrations. He implied this in reference to another Google product:

“Google’s Real-Time service was quickly launched for 25 Bahman demonstration of last year [14 February 2011, a demonstration supporting the Arab Spring] with the aim of disturbing Iranian society’s security.”

Editor’s note: Internet-based social-networks have been an important organizing tool for a variety of activities in Iran in the last few years. They were crucial in both helping mobilize support for the Green Movement demonstrations in 2009-2010 and sending news about them outside Iran given the media blackout instituted by the IRI.

A more recent and noticeable example of the organizing ability of social-networks was that of a Facebook group which invited young Tehranis to a water-gun fight in Tehran’s Fire and Water Park. While Iran’s police dealt with the gathering in a harsh manner, this trend has continued with similar events popping up in other cities. Though such gatherings have not had an overtly political message, they have fundamentally undermined the rigid public decorum the IRI enforces against its citizens on a daily basis, something which may prove corrosive to the regime in the long-run.

As outlined in our analysis on 16 August 2011 the Obama administration’s recent approach of empowering Iranians through the Internet with policies such as VOICE appears to be having some impact inside Iran and may be a useful path to cultivate for the US in light of the questions around the efficacy of sanctions and military attack. The IRI has shown great sensitivity to such initiatives for some time now and its increasingly shrill discourse on “Cultural Assault” and Jang-e Narm or “Soft War” shows the degree to which it views these can undermine its hold on Iranian society. Expect to hear more about this from us soon!