What websites are blocked?
Basically all the ones who can get you too much in contact with the outside world.
That may well be through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr or Pinterest, as through some media like the BBC, Le Monde, Manoto and a long etcetera. Also are blocked the best known websites to book hotels and hostels, such as Booking or Hostelworld, the ones that allow you to book rooms or private homes, such as Airbnb, and even those who get in contact travelers with locals to give them a place to stay, such as Couchsurfing.
If you blog or have a website, you should know that Google Analytics, like many of the services of the giant Google, are blocked. Although its flagship product, Gmail, was blocked for quite a lot of time right now it is not anymore. The same happens with VoIP calls (WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, etc) that although they were blocked for a long time, to this day they are no longer.
On the other hand, and as you might expect I guess, any material that is considered pornographic, unethical or anti-religious will not be accessible either.
But censorship does not end here, since all kinds of pages from which you can download audiovisual content from the Internet, subtitles and even websites that control the TV show episodes or movies you have already seen, such as Trakt.tv, will not pass the filter either.
Finally, the biggest television in the world, also called YouTube, is also obviously blocked.
How to connect to the Internet via a VPN
Whether for a computer, a tablet or a mobile phone, the way is the same and it’s dead easy: using a VPN.
A VPN is an application that connects to a computer that is in another country (where these restrictions do not apply) and makes the requests to any of the websites that you want to access from there so later it bounces the content to your terminal in Iran.
In our case, to get online from our mobile phones we always used the VPN Cloud app which in general was pretty good. Whenever you want to navigate, you must also connect the VPN (although there is an option to autoconnect) and if the connection, either Wi-Fi or 4G, is good it will connect in an instant to the remote computer. If the connection is normal it will take a little longer, but if the connection is quite slow you will probably not even be able to establish the connection, so you will stay out of all the websites and applications mentioned above.
You should also understand that, since this application is free, it will show you advertising from time to time and every hour will force you to reconnect to the proxy.
The government from time to time is blocking some VPNs, so it is possible that when you go there, this will no longer work and you should find another one. For example, when we arrived Eugenia tried the Turbo VPN app, which we read that worked very well, and it never got connected.
For the computer, you will also find several softwares that will do the same job, although in my case I decided not to install it since what I use the most in the computer is WordPress, and this, luckily, was not blocked.
Is the censor necessary?
I’ve been asking myself this question since I stepped on Iranian soil and started talking to locals.
What is the point of Internet censorship when all, and when I say all is all, the inhabitants of your country use VPNs to connect and browse freely wherever they want?
The truth is that it’s surprising but despite having such an Internet blockage and being social networks so banned, in general the Iranians have way more accounts in social networks than the westerns. Specifically Instagram: even some grandmothers of some lost villages have an account in the main social network of photography!
And in fact, even the same Hassan Rouhani, current president of the Iranian government has Twitter account! Well, to be exact, he has two of them, one in English and one in Farsi. In the same line is the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who also has an account in the same social network. But the social media star is neither more nor less than the country’s vice president, Eshaq Jahanguiri, which goes even further and not only has Instagram, but ricks it with his 120,000 followers.
Of course then throughout the country you will find propaganda posters in which graphically they want to say that the use of these networks or websites is immoral, leads to alcoholism, removes the hijab to women, and a long etcetera. See it to believe it.