The Problem

Millions inside Iran are blocked during sensitive political periods from accessing online services (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and thousands of daily blogs, news organizations, and communication services.) Outside of Iran, a community is spread around the globe with limited access to their country’s political discussion. Between crackdowns on media organizations, and the well-documented eruption of violence during protests, there was no gathering place for the scattered Iranian diaspora and Iranian citizens to engage freely about their country’s future.

Accessing information and sharing political ideas can come with serious personal risk for Iranians.

The Solution

Iran’s 2013 presidential elections were an unprecedented opportunity to bypass restrictive internet controls and enable open space for dialogue amongst Iranian citizens. Iran was charged for vibrant debate. Toronto, and Canada more broadly, is home to one of the largest communities of Iranian diaspora in the world. And the Munk School had a history of developing the kinds of technologies capable of opening access to a new digital public square for Iranians—both inside and outside Iran.

Censored in region?

Yes / No


On May 10 and 11, 2013, the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran embarked on an effort to dramatically open up political space for conversation among Iranians on the future of Iran.

With a significant online presence leveraging censorship circumvention technology, and a full range of social media tools, the Global Dialogue brought together Iranians inside Iran and around the world to share their views about the Iranian economy, equality, human rights, safe democratic space, and much more. In two days, Iranians inside Iran used the public square that had been opened for them from Toronto to discuss a wide range of topics freely, including the economy, political participation, defending rights and diversity, diplomacy, and equality for women


Users from inside Iran
Total Site Visits

Developed with

Psiphon Inc. is a Toronto-based company producing award winning open-source multi-platform circumvention software that helps over 3 million people every week connect to content on the Internet.

Project timeline

May 10, 2013

Live two-day Global Dialogue session held in Toronto

May 26, 2013

Officially confirmed blocked inside Iran

Event Day

On the day of the event in Toronto, Iranians were live tweeting and live blogging the discussions in Farsi and English; and simultaneous translations were broadcast in both languages through an in-house online radio channel, for Iranian users with slow Internet speeds. A video crew connected multiple cameras to Google Hangouts and hosted webcasts on YouTube for every panel discussion. YouTube’s servers ensured networks around the world could share the content without being overwhelmed by heavy traffic or a cyber-attack. Networks like Balatarin, an established Persian language news site, used the webcast feed from the Global Dialogue to broadcast the conference to thousands of their daily Iranian viewers. Online tools such as Google Moderator, Facebook and Twitter were available throughout the event to facilitate active participation, in particular by providing the ability to submit questions.

By the end of the first day, tens of thousands of users were connecting with the GDFI site from inside Iran.