Iranian Websites: Web Hosting Firm Shuts Down Services

Iranian FlagCheap web hosting provider Web.com disclosed information that it shut down the web pages run by a business they acquired because they were owned by Iranian businesses.

The information regarding the shut down was disclosed in an earnings statement released on Friday, regarding the sanctions law signed just last year. Network Solutions LLC, otherwise known at NetSol, was acquired by Web.com in October of 2011. They provided domain registration services to three separate Iranian sites in the time between 1999 and 2002.

The cheap hosting websites later renewed their domain names, one being an agency of the Iranian government (the Islamic Republic of Iran Meteorological Organization), and the other two are featured on the Office of Foreign Assets Control's List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (Valfajar 8th Shipping Line Co SSK and the Iran Marine Industrial Company.)

Iranian Websites: The Sanctions

Put into place by President Obama in August 2012, The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 punishes Iran for their refusal to comply with the US and other Western countries in their requests to put a stop to their nuclear program. Tehran claims this program exists for peaceful purposes only.

The law does many things, including adding penalties for anyone helping out Iran's petrochemical, petroleum, insurance, financial, and shipping sectors. Furthermore, it makes the list of programs sanctions can be imposed upon Iranian entities and individuals even bigger. Because the law says parent companies can become a target when a sanction is violated, this is why Web.com felt it necessary to shut down the sites.

The three domains were locked and then deprovisioned by Network Solutions on May 14, 2013. Additionally, a transfer lock was placed on the domains, meaning that after the domain names expire, these entities can no longer renew them with Network Solutions. They can only re-register them (if they are able.)

Iranian Websites: The Problem With Iran

According to Hugh Jones, president and chief executive of BankersAccuity consulting firm, “Business with Iran is fraught with peril, no matter what type of business it is.” These sites affected by the shut down it seems would be a bigger problem, especially since two of the three were on the Specifically Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons blacklist.

Iran is also working towards Internet censorship of their own, and have been for some time. The issue was pushed to the forefront back in 2005 by then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Opponents to the regime in Iran rely heavily on the Internet to speak their piece, and the activist group Reporters Without Borders has listed Iran one of the 13 countries on its list entitled “Enemies of the Internet.”

Cyber cafes have been shut down, and the government is even talking about instituting a national Internet, where all content is controlled by the government. If you want a website in Iran, you must first register your site with the Ministry of Art and Culture. In fact, Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei instructed Iranian authorities to form a group charged with overseeing the Internet in March of 2012, which they did: The Supreme Council of Virtual Space.

Web.com was quick to point out the registrations of the Iranian sites happened before they acquired Network Solutions. In the future, there will be policies in place to ensure this doesn't happen again.

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