The Internet and the Treasure House of Information
Another context of the reform movement was the new communication tools. The Internet was introduced into the Iranian public sphere in 1998. After only five years, almost every governmental and private institution, medium, political party and non-governmental organization had its own website. The government has filtered more than six million websites but this has not stopped a large number of political activists from establishing their own websites and publishing statements, essays and journal entries almost every day. Although some of these websites have only propaganda and commercials, the sponsors and gatekeepers have begun to gather, compose and disclose their information to publish descriptive or analytical essays and stories to generate more visitors. They have also made access to some parts of their archives possible.
Spreading the Internet to Iranian society opened the lid of a treasure trove of information that has led to a more open public sphere, and the Iranian government cannot resist this trend. Virtual social networks had a defining role in the Green Movement of 2009. This, of course, does not mean that the Internet alone will democratize or liberalize Iranian society, strengthen civil society institutions and make censorship impossible. The chapter adopts a case-oriented and causal/analytical comparative method to study the neutralizing effect of increasing Internet access and thus the number of websites that describe the institutional and cultural limitations on the free flow of information.
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