Selective Truths Revealed: The Case of Iranian Search Engines

Over the past few years, Iranian officials have championed ‘national’ tech development projects (such as the National Information Network (SHOMA) and Iranian versions of Western services), while eschewing foreign platforms like Viber and WhatsApp.

One of the most recent examples of this dynamic can be found in the February 2015 launch of three Iranian search engines: Parsijoo, Gorgor and Yooz. While this was announced in February, it should be noted that Parsijoo was in fact launched a few years ago, and Yooz was launched in early 2010. It’s unclear why the authorities are presenting them as “new”.

Government officials insist that Iranians can use domestic search engines without any disruption from the filtering system, regardless of what terms they search for. The authorities also maintain that these search engines can compete with Google and other Western alternatives.

{josquote}The results on all of the Iranian search engines were overwhelmingly hostile to Baha’is, with many referring to them as “the misguided Baha’i sect.”{/josquote}

Small Media’s latest report put these claims to the test. We picked six potentially keywords: ‘sex,’ Baha’i,’ ‘Mir Hossein Mousavi,’ ‘BBC Persian,’ ‘Facebook,’ and ‘VPN,’ and searched for them on the search engines mentioned above plus google. Here’s what we found:

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