By Zahra Hosseinian and Yeganeh Torbati, Dubai, Reuters
Iran plans to switch its citizens onto a domestic internet network in what officials say is a bid to improve cyber security but which many Iranians fear is the latest way to control their access to the web.
The announcement, made by a government deputy minister yesterday, came as state television announced Google search engine and its email service would be blocked “within a few hours”.
“Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice,” said an official identified only by his last name, Khoramabadi.
The Iranian Students’ News Agency said Google ban was connected to the anti-Islamic film posted on the company’s YouTube site which has caused outrage. There was no official confirmation.
Iran has one of the biggest internet filters of any country in the world, preventing Iranians from accessing countless sites on the official grounds they are offensive or criminal.
Many Iranians believe the block is due to their use in anti-government protests. “In recent days, all governmental agencies and offices... have been connected to the national information network,” said deputy communications and technology minister Ali Hakim-Javadi.
The second phase of the plan would be to connect ordinary Iranians to the national network, he said.
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