- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2015

Iran’s top cyber cop said Monday that authorities have made 53 arrests and taken down 132 websites as part of an effort to erase the Islamic State group from the Internet.

As government agencies and would-be web vigilantes the world over pursue plans to tackle the terror group’s web presence, the head of the Iranian Cyber Police touted Tehran’s own actions this week, local media reported.

“The cyber police has been identifying and removing web pages exclusively owned by Daesh or people who in some way supported them and advocated their ideologies,” said Brigadier General Kamal Hadian, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

“We have arrested 53 inside the country” since April 2014, he told the IRNA news agency, adding that “some of the deceived ones were released after signing a pledge” to cease such activities.

The Iranian Cyber Police, also known as also known as FATA, had managed to take down 132 ISIS-related websites during that same span, Mr. Hadian added, and have referred more than a 100 foreign-based websites to the relevant international authorities.

“Among those arrested, the cases of those who confessed … were referred to the judiciary while some whose involvement were based on their unawareness (of what they were doing were released),” Iran’s Students News Agency ISNA quoted him as saying.

His group, a unit of Islamic Republic of Iran Police, exists to “prevent espionage and sabotage in Information Technology tools,” he told state-run media at the time of its founding in 2011. It’s actions have hardly been limited toward suspected terrorists, however, with the Cyber Police having also arrested four individuals this week accused of running a Facebook group that hosted an online beauty pageant; they’ve been charged with “inciting and encouraging individuals to access vulgar content through the Internet.”

Reporters Without Borders, an organization that monitors press freedoms, said in September that Tehran had been intensifying its effort to restrict the web activities of Iranians, and cited the arrests of roughly 100 bloggers that had been handed jails terms since June 2013. With respect the Islamic State group, however, law enforcement groups and self-styled hacktivists have ramped-up their own attempts in recent weeks to have the extremists eliminated from the Internet: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, said over the weekend that ISIS had become “the most effective recruiter in the world” and urged American technology companies, like Twitter and Facebook, to help keep the group offline.

“We need to put the great disrupters at work at disrupting ISIS,” Mrs. Clinton said, the New York Times first reported.

Officially, however, Washington has been reluctant to outright ban the group from the public Web. “We cannot underestimate the challenge,” Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said of the group’s success last month. “I’m not sure our authority extends to [shut down the websites], but I do think there are specific things we can do.”

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