State censorship a step closer as Iranian government says Google search and Gmail will be blocked
Iran has moved a step nearer to a walled-off internet that will allow its citizens access only to government-approved sites.
It was announced on Sunday that access to Google's search engine and email services will be blocked "in a matter of hours". An official known only by his last name, Khoramabadi, said: "Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice."
However, the Google's transparency reporting tool shows that the block in Iran may not yet be in force.
There is speculation that the current Google block is part of the backlash in the Muslim world against the now infamous film, Innocence of Muslims. Google has blocked access to video clips on YouTube in Muslim countries but despite pressure has refused to introduce world-wide censorship.
"What's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video, which is widely available on the Web, is clearly within our guidelines," the company said in a statement.
The prospect of a domestic intranet in Iran, isolating the country's internet users from the world-wide-web, has been on the agenda for a number of years.
The country says this restricted access is for national cyber-security reasons, and to protect citizens from offensive content.
"The establishment of the national intelligence network will create a situation where the precious intelligence of the country won't be accessible to these powers," Iran's FARS news agency is quoted as saying.
But state censorship has been creeping in since 2005. Internet service providers (ISPs) must be approved by both the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
The National Information Network is expected to be completed in March 2013. Iran said that all government agencies are connected to the network and the next move is to move citizens over.
Whether it will be possible to stop determined Iranians getting access to the internet through virtual private networks in another matter according to internet experts.
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