Iran today unblocked Gmail, with announcements that it will shortly come up with domestic versions of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s search engine and e-mail service. The officials also revealed that additional censorship is being prepared against YouTube.
As per the local reports, the Internet users were able to freely access their Gmail accounts for the first time since the blocks were suddenly put in place on Sep. 24. Also, a secure-protocol HTTPS version of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) was made accessible, while the un-secure HTTP version remained unblocked. The deputy minister, Ali Hakim Javadi, told reporters, that the government will soon introduce its own domestic alternatives–the Fakhr search engine and Fajr e-mail services.
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The Iranian officials blocked Gmail last week, after an order from a local court linking the distribution of the controversial anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” on YouTube, also owned by Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). Iranian officials said at that time, “due to the repeated demands of the people, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Gmail will be filtered nationwide. They will remain filtered until further notice”. The officials also revealed plans to move citizens to its local Internet system, which is to be rolled out by March 2013.
Terming the blocking of Gmail as an “involuntary” consequence of trying to reinforce censorship of YouTube, Mohammad Reza Miri, a member of Iran’s telecommunications ministry committee, tasked with Internet filtering in Iran, said today “We absolutely do not want YouTube to be accessible. That is why the telecommunications ministry is seeking a solution to fix the problem to block YouTube under the HTTPS protocol, while leaving Gmail accessible. That will soon happen”.
According to data from Google, monitoring traffic connectivity, Iran has been censoring YouTube since mid-2009. The recent ban on Gmail caused widespread resentment in a country with 32 million Internet users, out of a population of 75 million. “Some problems have emerged through the blocking of Gmail,” Hussein Garrousi, a member of a parliamentary committee on industry, was quoted as saying Sunday. Even the country’s media and some of the officials were against the decision to block Gmail, in response to an anti-Islam film.
On Saturday, Asr-e Ertebat weekly revealed that since last month, Iranians had paid a total of 4.5 million US dollars to purchase proxy services to access blocked sites.