Iran’s online censorship and computer crimes department announced Sunday to block the Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s search engine and Gmail throughout the country. According to the Young Journalists Club, the government’s decision was in reaction to YouTube’s refusal to remove the anti-Islamic film, Innocence of Muslims, that caused violent protests in the Islamic world.
However, Iranian citizens believe that the sites like Facebook and YouTube have been blocked because of their significant role in spreading anti-government sentiments. They cite the disputed re-election of Ahamdinejad in 2009 as proof.
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Despite many government sponsored protests all around the country over the film, most of the citizens aren’t bothered by it. Some of the Iranians faced problems accessing their Google accounts while others said it worked fine for them, according to the Guardian.
The decision to block Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s search engine comes at a time when the government is planning to launch a domestic Internet network to substitute the world wide web. The officials said that they will ask people to switch to the domestic network to improve cyber security. “In recent days, all governmental agencies and offices … have been connected to the national information network,” said Ali Hakim-Javadi, deputy communications and technology minister.
But citizens think that the regime is doing so to secure its own banking, military and other sensitive data. The Islamic Republic has ramped up its cyber security after Stuxnet, a computer worm, attacked Iran’s uranium enrichment project and caused the centrifuges to fail in 2010. Tehran accused USA and Israel of the worm attack.
According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Iran is the fourth most censored country. Eritrea, North Korea and Syria are the top three. People are reacting on the government’s decision through social media sites.
Iran has blocked over 5 million websites including Facebook, Twitter, BBC, CNN and the Guardian. When people try to visit the blocked sites, they are redirected to a page that says “Access to the website is denied according to [Iran’s] computer crimes regulations.” Still, people access them with the help of VPN or proxy servers. For example, Facebook is blocked in Iran, but more than 17 million Iranians use the social networking site.