Iranian president talks about weblogs

Iranian president talks about weblogs
: This is big news. Daily Summit asks President Khatami about weblogs and gets surprising answers. Bravo to Daily Summit for getting these three important questions in:

President mentions weblogs! Asked by Ahmed Reda of Daily Summit who controls internet censorship in Iran, Mr Khatami replied:

“I think there are hardly any countries in the developing world, or in Islamic countries, where you have such expanded ICT networks and ICT use. Of the weblogs that are created and generated – after those in English and French, we are number three.

“There are a lot of internet connections in Iran. All countries have certain reservations about the internet, but they are not about freedom of expression. They are only porn and immoral websites. Even political websites that are openly opposed to the Iranian government, and all other educational and scientific sites, are available to the Iranian people. But the expansion of digital expression should not harm the culture or identity of nations. We need new conventions, while allowing fair use of the internet.

“Of countries that have been very sensitive to the harm these communications can cause, we can use France, as an example. Its example shows we should not sacrifice the great benefit of these communications, but we should pay attention to the harms they can cause. The internet should not harm the fundamental freedoms of people. Within the framework, of law, we believe in Iran we have imposed the minimum restrictions. In other countries there are broader restrictions.”

He says they censor “only” 240 sites on the Internet:

Only 240 sites! Aaron Scullion asked President Khatami : “Will you pledge uncensored access to the internet or publish a list of sites deemed unacceptable?”

The President replied: “The BBC, Voice of America and other American sites will not be censored in Iran. Many things that are contrary to the policies of Iran are available in Iran. Even opposition websites are available. We are exerting greater control over pornographic and immoral websites that are not compatible with Islam. And even some political sites that are very insulting to religion. But we are not censoring criticism. Criticism is OK.

“The numbers are very few – it’s only porn sites. (Asks Minister of ICT for a precise number) Altogether 240 sites, the Minister tells me. The majority are porn sites, not political sites. We hope to have a world where morality will prevail and we will not have to censor any sites.”

They ask him whether he blogs:

Do you blog? After President Khatami mentions the explosion of weblogging in Iran, Daily Summit asked: do you use weblogs, Mr President?

“I do not use weblogs,” the President replied. “But I do not use many good things. My own daughters do not have weblogs but they are very active in using the internet and chat. Our youth and adolescents during high school – and university – are using weblogs very extensively. In universities, there is a lot of access and there are many internet cafes in Iran. Access for youth to the internet is very satisfactory.”

: I blogged this from a restaurant (obnoxious and true) while having lunch with Om Malik and Anil Dash. It was just too good to wait.

I am most eager to hear what Hoder and other Iranian bloggers say about the truth of Iranian censorship and what they think of this.

On the other hand, as I showed this to Anil, he said: “The president of Iran mentions weblogs before the president of America.” Weird world.

: Since there’s some discussion about how Iran is blocking porn sites — but only 240 sites, and that includes political sites, too — then folks wonder just how many porn sites are there on the Internet? 225?

At last week’s MIT Media Lab confab, an IBM guy said they had calculated just how much porn there is on the Internet (tough job but somebody’s gotta do it): One third of the Internet is porn, they said.