Goodreads now blocked in Iran

Posted by Jessica on February 11, 2010
For several years, Goodreads has been flying under the radar of the Iranian government, which has a track record of blocking their citizens' access to information on the web. News broke yesterday that Iran will begin blocking Gmail. Among our 3 million members, we are happy to have 114,031 Iranian members who have added 714,626 books to their shelves. As reported by the Los Angeles Times in 2008, Goodreads has provided an online forum where Iranians participate not only in robust discussions of literature, but also, by natural extension, healthy debates about politics. We have been proud to provide this safe space for honest opinions.

Last Friday, February 5, 2010, we were saddened to see Goodreads traffic in Iran plummet (screenshot at left), which can only mean that Goodreads has joined the ranks of sites blocked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. One Iranian Goodreads member wrote to us and confirmed the news: "your site is recently been filtered by our horrible govrnmt. pls help us! spread it...books make no harm."

We couldn't agree more. Books make no harm. In an interview last year, Goodreads Author Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, commented presciently on the Iranian phenomenon on Goodreads: "People constantly find ways of connecting. If [Goodreads] is banned in Iran, we need support for those people who just want to connect to the world." Please spread the word that books should be enjoyed, discussed, and shared by everyone.

Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)

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message 1: by Nicky (new)

Nicky It isn't actually true that books make no harm. I can think of lots of ways books do damage -- even the Bible, as moral and wise as people see it, is used to do harm.

Nonetheless, I agree that goodreads shouldn't be blocked in Iran. The blockage of discussion and debate is what does harm to ordinary people, and can only be of benefit to people who stand to gain from silent oppression.

message 2: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Oh man, that's sad. I hope the ardent Iranian GR members aren't disheartened & can find good proxies to get around this nonsense.

message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie I agree with Nikki above. Books are tremendously influential for good or evil. However, I believe in freedom of speech for all, and freedom of the press. People should be free to read what they please and decide for themselves what's treasure and what's trash. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Iran.

message 4: by Hillary (new)

Hillary I don't think it's the books themselves that can do good and harm so much as the people who interpret them as they please--the responsibility lies on their shoulders, I think. I also think it's a fear that books can innately be harmful that leads governments like Iran to censor them.

message 5: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Twead Unbelievable! I shall tweet this immediately, people should know. Everyone should have the right to read books and communicate.

Victoria Twead

message 6: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Q Goodreads is one of my favorite websites and my life has truly been enriched by connecting with other book lovers through this site and others. I've tried new genres, discovered timeless classics and new releases, and had some great read-along and literary discussions.

I can't imagine the government telling me I'm not allowed to do that anymore. How sad that an entire country can be denied the right to discuss and learn about books; to expand their horizons, to dream of different worlds, to increase their knowledge and awareness. Things like this remind me how fortunate I am to be an American, and that there are too many freedoms I take for granted.

message 7: by Nicky (new)

Nicky "I don't think it's the books themselves that can do good and harm so much as the people who interpret them as they please--the responsibility lies on their shoulders, I think."

I don't agree wholly. Books indoctrinate people in subtle ways, through what they may think is mere entertainment. That's a way in which they can be very harmful, almost unnoticed.

message 8: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Books do not harm. Books don't force anyone to cause harm. It is ultimately the reader's choice to "make harm". Just how much a book influences a reader is up to the reader.

message 9: by Nicky (last edited Feb 11, 2010 05:32PM) (new)

Nicky Lisa, no? There are lots of ways I think a book can be harmful. One of those ways is the fact that indoctrination can be so very subtle, especially when given to someone who reads without real awareness (like, for example, a child). Books can also be personally harmful -- if you're familiar with the concept of "triggering", that's what I mean by that. Books are also harmful because they can be used, because they can be such powerful symbols and so easily misused. Books can be misinterpreted in dangerous ways (the Bible being one of them).

A book sat on the shelf, unread, does not do harm -- that's true. It has no power to reach out and force someone to read it. But books don't just sit on the shelf unread.

Note that I'm not saying books always cause harm. If they can cause harm, they can also cause good. And even if the books seem harmful in themselves, they can open discussions that wouldn't be touched on otherwise. Books can and should be questioned. If you say they can't do harm, I don't think you can say they do good, either.

message 10: by Pavs (new)

Pavs I agree with Nikki. My first reaction was she is wrong but what she is saying makes sense.

Books can be harmful the same way drinking (too much) water can be harmful or doing (too much) exercise can be harmful.

I think the phrase "Books make no harm" in its _literal_ sense is not correct, because certain book with extreme ideologies can be harmful to certain people (kids or people who does not understand the harmful aspect of such ideologies).

However, in this context, it is fair to say that books can do no harm (generally speaking).

To be on topic. I hope this filtering is temporary and they will soon get access back to site like goodreads.

message 11: by Reina (last edited Feb 12, 2010 01:46AM) (new)

Reina But I'm sure we all agree that "knowledge is power", and the more literate a person becomes, depending on what field they want to specialise in, the more they can influence, change or revolt against a trend that works against them.
It is pure suppression and manic control from the government, perhaps under fear of one of their citizens becoming the next great person to spark a change for the better in their country purely from education.

-Well, "where there's a will, there's a way". Even if people have to go underground, the world is becoming aware of what's happening on their side, hopefully some help will get to those who’re seeking for it. *fingers crossed*

People will get to read; be it electronic, email, .pdf or sending books by post, notes or just simple letters. ;)
(Time to go back old school style, perhaps)

message 12: by Pedram (new)

Pedram :|

message 13: by Eva Marie (new)

Eva Marie Wow - it's hard to believe that in this day and age this would happen. How utterly sad.
I agree with those above who said books do no harm. In general. We all have choices in life and books do not make anyone do anything. Much like hearing a song or watching movies. There will always be influences in our world and we have to decide what to do or not do. This is meaning adults, not children of course. And with the children, again, books do no harm. The PARENTS do harm by GIVING/READING an inappropriate book to a child.
I'm surprised readers would think anything else personally.

message 14: by Nicky (last edited Feb 19, 2010 08:52AM) (new)

Nicky Eva -- the reason I think otherwise is because I'm also an English Literature student, and I've done a module on Children's Literature, and I know something of the theories surrounding the subject. I love books, I believe books are good and faithful friends, I think reading is one of the most important things I do every day, right up there with "waking up" and "breathing". That doesn't mean I can't admit that literature in general -- not just children's literature -- has an incredibly deep influence on people. It's not just parents giving an inappropriate book to children: sometimes the parents don't realise there's harm in the books.

A book cannot force you to do something, in and of itself. However, books can shape you, in ways you don't know about -- in ways the author doesn't think about, perhaps. And that's where they can do harm. My opinion is the result of study, thought, and experience.

message 15: by Nicky (last edited Feb 19, 2010 11:12AM) (new)

Nicky Not necessarily, BunWat. For example, in Children's Lit, the values all tend to be the same -- fairly conservative. Crime Fiction, the same.

Besides, most people on goodreads probably read quite widely, but Average Person? Not necessarily. A bestseller or two sometimes, perhaps.

message 16: by Nicky (new)

Nicky Past tense, haha. Got my results for the exam last week, even. But that's beside the point.

message 17: by P. (new)

P. It's a terrible thing that the Iranian people are now being censored on what they should or shouldn't read.

But people always find a way to get what they need. And I'm sure this won't stop avid readers in that country.

message 18: by Eva Marie (last edited Feb 19, 2010 05:25PM) (new)

Eva Marie Nikki wrote: "Eva -- the reason I think otherwise is because I'm also an English Literature student, and I've done a module on Children's Literature, and I know something of the theories surrounding the subject...."
Influence Nikki. Influences do not MAKE someone DO something - they still have CHOICES. And, as for the parents not knowing, I'm a parent and it's my JOB to know. If I do not know, that's MY fault. My daughter reads nothing that I don't deem okay. Until she's old enough to decide for herself and make choices that's how it stays. Poor choices or wise ones, they are still choices and we all have them regardless of influence.
This can go hand in hand with bad parenting. Good parents know what books to hand their children and what not to and they do their best to teach their children.
Nikki, your comment about parents basically excuses parents. Do you realize that?
"knowing about the theories" doesn't mean anything when it comes to this IMO. It makes no sense. A book, a song, a video game, a movie, whatever else anyone can think of DOES NOT make someone do something - they do it by CHOICE that they made themselves.

message 19: by Nicky (new)

Nicky Eva, I don't agree. By 'influence', I mean something you don't even know is there -- so you can't choose to disregard it. Perhaps when I said 'shape' I was closer to what I meant. For example, people barely ever notice that the vast majority of fiction is heteronormative. People accept that as a norm in fiction. How can that not affect the rest of their lives? For another example, so much of fiction just takes the current class system for granted, and again, how can that not shape the way people think in the rest of their lives?

As a parent, do you ensure that your child reads books that contain a range of genders? Cultures? Disabilities? Sexualities? Religions? Do you ensure that your child understands that different races, disabilities, genders and sexualities are okay, through a range of different books that do not exclude these people? That's a rhetorical question, you don't have to answer it and I'm not interrogating you about how you choose to raise your child, incidentally. I'm just trying to illustrate my point.

I was allowed to read whatever I wanted: if it troubled my parents in any way, they would discuss it with me, but they would never stop me reading something. They were pretty responsible about that -- after I read Enid Blyton, for example, my parents spoke to me about gender roles and racism and classism. Even so, I'm not sure I came across much in fiction of ethnic diversity, and certainly nothing about disability or sexuality. So I grew up with an image of a white-predominated society (which was a sheer lie, where I grew up), populated with people who could all do the same things and aspire to the same heights, people who were all of the same class as me, and, most hurtfully, people who were not of the same sexuality as me -- I was abnormal in my own eyes and in the eyes of many of my peers. That's just one example of how I think books can do harm -- they can teach you a way of viewing things that isn't at all true.

They can also be used in a similar way to indoctrinate children to a parent's ideas. This might be in the best faith -- for example, a parent who believes homosexuality is completely wrong and means you'll go to hell. Then they would monitor the child's reading, not allowing them to read anything gay-positive, and push them towards books about how wonderful marriage between a man and a woman is, and gradually in this way teach a child that sex before marriage is wrong, that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and thus that homosexuality is wrong.

There are others: e.g. books full of evil ideas (though I've never read it, I suspect "Mein Kampf" would be an example), and books that are used by people to justify evil ideas (the Bible being one of those)...

message 20: by Eva Marie (new)

Eva Marie Nikki, to be blunt, that is far more than I plan on reading. :) Sorry. I disagree with you wholeheartedly but here in America we're able to do that thank God.
I stand by what I said and I think what you're trying to do is work around the situation. I think that's also what's wrong with a lot of parents today - everyone makes excuses. :( If we just stood up and did out jobs - properly - our children wouldn't be "hurt" by books. ;)
Thanks for the conversation, I do appreciate it, but now I'm off to read my book that I want to get finished!

message 21: by Nicky (new)

Nicky Nikki, your comment about parents basically excuses parents. Do you realize that?
"knowing about the theories" doesn't mean anything when it comes to this IMO. It makes no sense. A book, a song, a video game, a movie, whatever else anyone can think of DOES NOT make someone do something - they do it by CHOICE that they made themselves.

Why do you think that? I don't think it's a good thing that people don't recognise how important literature is -- even you're dismissing how much it can shape the way someone thinks, even while telling me that you're very careful about what you let your child read. I think people should examine what books teach you that you don't think about. I know I try to think about it, because I don't dismiss that quiet influence.

message 22: by Nicky (new)

Nicky Eva, I find that response rude, no matter how gently you try to brush me off with "I do appreciate it". How do you know I'm so wrong if you haven't even bothered to read my explanation?

message 23: by Eva Marie (new)

Eva Marie Nikki, I wasn't trying to be rude! I'm sorry you took it like that or that it sounded like that. I do appreciate the conversation - it just got a lot more detailed than I'm prepared for tonight. I'm itching to get back to my book and I already said my opinion a few times. All that together and I ended it.
I am so sorry - I am NOT a rude person so please don't think that!
And it's really not so much that I think you're "wrong" as I disagree if that makes any sense. You could very well be right while I'm wrong. (I've been wrong enough in the past.) I just disagree.
Another time I'd definitely get into a debate because I can tell you can get into it without getting ignorant (unlike some people) but I just don't want to tonight.
I really am sorry Nikki - I meant nothing by it at all.

message 24: by Nicky (new)

Nicky I can appreciate not having time for it, it's just I don't think you should engage in the first place if you're not planning to listen to the other person, for whatever reason. However, I'll probably make a blog post out of it, so at least the work I put into trying to explain my point won't be wasted, haha.

message 25: by Eva Marie (new)

Eva Marie Nikki, most of the time when I post on here the conversation doesn't exactly get so in depth. Not that I mind that, sometimes, just not at the moment. My main purpose was to state my opinion because I found out this morning a friend in Iran has been bothered by this. If that word can even be used in regards to something such as this.
I can tell it's a subject you're passionate about and I don't know much about blogs but if it'll start people thinking it's a good thing! Thanks Nikki - I hope you don't think I'm rude anymore! :)

message 26: by Nicky (new)

Nicky I didn't think from that that you were a rude person in general, don't worry -- but I just spent a decent amount of time when I could have been going to bed (it's past 2am here in Wales) trying to elucidate my point for you, when you weren't actually interested in what I had to say... But whatever, perhaps someone else will read it: this isn't just a one-on-one discussion, after all.

message 27: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Question for Jessica and the team : was the decline in Iranian traffic a permanent decline? I.e. is Goodreads now banned in some way in Iran?

message 28: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Yes, we are now blocked in Iran.

message 29: by Jalil (new)

Jalil I from Iran goodreads was blocked in Iran and Now is unblocked unlatch

message 30: by Jalil (new)

Jalil from Iran goodreads blocked i mistaken i use proxy fro access to goodreads

message 31: by Hossein (new)

Hossein Sharifi it's been filtered again.. that's a shame !

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