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Business - Written by on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 17:05 - 3 Comments

Blogging beyond boundaries

In a country where many forms of communication and media are restricted by government, Iran has one of the most vibrant blogging communities in the world; hosting around 65,000 bloggers and 22 million internet users.

To suitably illustrate the popularity of blogging in Iran, according to Alexa.com, 4 of the top 10 sites in Iran are blogging services. The third most popular site in Iran behind Google at number 1 and Yahoo! at number 2 is BLOGFA – a free Persian blog service provider.
Surprisingly, not all the blogs are focused around politics. Topics include human rights, poetry, religion and pop culture. See visualization of the Iranian blogosphere produced by John Kelly and Bruce Etling for their paper, “Mapping Iran’s Online Public: Politics and Culture in the Persian Blogosphere.

map of Iranian Blogosphere

Many Iranian youth are using blogging and other technologies to get around the tight restrictions they face in everyday life and are using it as an outlet to express themselves and be heard. With RapidShare.com at number 9 on Iran’s top sites list, Iranian bands are using the internet to share pop and rock music ‘underground’.
Although the Iranian government has taken some steps to control the blogosphere, including blocking content and tracking authors, the internet has created a self-organizing web of communications, making it easy to participate in and hard for government to control.
To get past the restrictions and government blocks, many Iranians are forced to change their domain names regularly or download technologies such as anti-filtering software. Even some journalists who work in the mainstream media use the internet to publish articles they cannot get past their newspaper, program editors, or the official censors.

The Government recognizes the threat blogging poses to undermine their position and authority. According to this BBC article, there have even been reports of bloggers getting arrested. Parliament is also considering a law that could impose the death penalty on bloggers found guilty of using the web to spread corruption, prostitution or apostasy (religious disaffiliation).
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has his own blog, although not very active. (His last English post was December 1, 2007; the last French post was November 30, 2007; and from what I can tell his last posts in Farsi and Arabic were also in 2007.) According to Statbrain.com his site receives approximately 4,786 visits per day.


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Jan 14, 2009 1:18

Hey! It was cool to read this nice post about the blogosphere in our home country.
By the way, to me it was the first layer of the very complicated labyrinth of Iranian information & communication context. Its the result of very fast forming new aspects of social (life after revolution), as well as an ancient history which have made us very very complex.
I have a lot to say, but its more than a blog comment! I’d be glad to help if you needed, just contact me.

Jan 16, 2009 13:26

Hi Ming,

Thanks so much for blogging our paper. We’re working to create an online interactive map that people can play/learn with, and also hope to have a working paper out later this winter on the Arabic blogosphere.


Ming Kwan
Jan 22, 2009 15:20

@Kaveh – I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post. It would be really interesting to get your views on the blogging situation in your home country. Are you currently living there? Or have you moved to a different country.

@Bruce – It was a really interesting paper! I’m glad I found it, and kudos for having it open for the public to read (it’s all about open IP). I will continue to check back for your paper on the Arabic blogsphere

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