BBC Persian filtered out of Iran, what can we do?

When ever the great firewall is mentioned, everyone thinks of China. Even I have to add myself to that list. Interestingly I read a blog on globalvoices (need to find link) which was talking about the fact that filtering happens all over the world and China just happens to be the most high profile one at the moment. One of the things eating up most of my time at work has been the new BBC China site. It has no news content on it at all and it does not link to any news content, which sets its self apart from most of the other 32 language sites we run. This should be acceptable enough to not trigger any alarms on the great firewall china has deployed.

The same certainly does not look true of Iran's firewall which seems to be simply filtering BBC Persian full stop. Hossein Derakhshan has a little about the filtering and i've find some other stuff online. But this is a subset from a much larger email which got sent around

Based on past procedures, the committee in charge of deciding which websites should be filtered has announced a list of sites to the ICT (Information Communication Technology) Ministry to have them blocked and the BBC's Persian news site is one of the sites.

I won't even try and attempt to stake a view on if this is good or bad. But I will say like China information has funny habit of getting around these things. Which leads me on to one of the most interesting moves we've made recently in the Syndication space.

Now for those who do not know I work for the BBC World Service and here comes a disclaimer (thanks Ben). The views stated on this site are mine and are not endorsed by the BBC World Service. Although I am a new media developer for the BBC World Service I am not paid, hoodwinked or coerced into boosting the BBC World Service on this website. Nor does this blog form any part of their marketing strategy. I'm a big fan of Full text syndication but understand why the mainstream media do not use it. So it gives me great pleasure to say that today the Persian feeds were modified to output more content than a little teaser today (the full list is available here). This is not full text, but not your usual one line affair. I have to say its still work in progress and could be changed at any time. But looks like one in a range of innovative solutions for people seeking well written and timely farsi (persian) news content around the world. I would urge anyone who uses the feeds to give us feedback positive and negative. As it might influence what happens in the near future for not only Persian feeds but maybe other language feeds?

Lets hope I still got a job when I go in tomorrow. Although I don't see why not when both the filtering news is online already and the RSS feeds are for public consumption. I won't be suprise if someones already blogged about the change but I've seen nothing yet. Saying that I don't read Farsi.

And at long last some coverage. Iran blocks BBC Persian website on Zeropaid and Boingboing. 2 days after writing this blog post I was worried about the fact I was writing about what we were doing in the BBC World Service about this block. Well besides almost fulltext RSS were now rolling out almost full text daily news email in Persian. So I would say (not the bbc'of course), there's multiple ways around this block. It will be interesting to see if the take up of the Persian RSS and Persian email news will dramaticly increase now there is a block. Humm I wonder if there is anything else we could/should be doing?

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.