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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 on Sunday, came as state television announced Google Inc's 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," an official identified only by his last name, Khoramabadi, said, without giving further details.
The Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said Google ban was connected to the anti-Islamic film posted on the company's YouTube site which has caused outrage throughout the Muslim world. There was no official confirmation.
Iran has one of the biggest Internet filters of any country in the world, preventing normal Iranians from accessing countless sites on the official grounds they are offensive or criminal.
But many Iranians believe the block on sites such as Facebook and YouTube is due to their use in anti-government protests after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad in 2009.
Sites expressing views considered anti-government are also routinely blocked.
Iranians commonly overcome the government filter by using virtual private network (VPN) software that makes the computer appear as if it is based in another country.
But officials have long spoken of creating an Iranian Internet system which would be largely isolated from the World Wide Web.
"In recent days, all governmental agencies and offices ... have been connected to the national information network," deputy communications and technology minister Ali Hakim-Javadi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.
The second phase of the plan would be to connect ordinary Iranians to the national network, he said.
According to Iranian media, the domestic system would be fully implemented by March 2013 but it was not clear whether access to the global Internet would be cut once the Iranian system is rolled out.
Even using VPNs, many Iranians suffered serious problems accessing email and social networking sites in February, ahead of parliamentary elections.
The Islamic Republic tightened cyber security after its nuclear program was attacked in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer worm, which caused centrifuges to fail at its main uranium enrichment facility.
Tehran, whose nuclear programme is suspected by the West of being aimed at developing a bomb, accused the United States and Israel of deploying the worm.
Authorities said in April a computer virus was detected inside the control systems of Kharg Island - which handles the vast majority of Iran's crude oil exports - but the terminal remained operational.
Communications and Technology Minister Reza Taqipour said last month Iran needed to develop its own network to ensure the safety of the country's information.
"Control over the Internet should not be in the hands of one or two countries," he said. "Especially on major issues and during crises, one cannot trust this network at all."
Iran threatened in May to take legal action against Google over its decision to drop the term "Persian Gulf" from its Google Maps and leaving the waterway between Iran and the Arabian peninsula nameless.
Many Arab states refer to the sea as the "Arabian Gulf", a term Iran considers unacceptable.
(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Sophie Hares)
I didn't read most of it, but it sounds like they want to control all the information the citizens have access to. Control freaks on the highest order.
u can say only lies.
That place it the best demonstration of why politics and religion should be separated.
DrSpudnik, I think that could be said about the US too :)
Though we have no official established religion, even here there is a constant need to battle the faithful and their efforts to make everyone else as heaven-bound as they.
Hide-bound, more like
As well as a need to battle the atheist groups that are boycotting Christmas displays, war memorials, etc, because they supposedly promote Chrsitianity.
And I'm an atheist myself.
oWe, so ethir nature, aer nt css plare:s he so raeti gihtre. gihte. gihte
Tell us the truth.
The U.S. is spying on everything: friendly state of heads, e-mail, telephones; they have put built-in spying devices into new laptops...The list is endless. And it happens all over the world; in almost every country! Your paranoia knows no limits...
Your only concern is Iran, eh?
Gotta give the Iranian government some credit. Unlike the U.S. government, they will just come right out and admit they are trying to control information and supress the masses.
What is the U.S. afraid of? The revolt of the masses?
Welcome to more lag for our Iranian friends that are smart enough to use a VPN
I have no idea what you are talking about. I am not American, and I neither attack nor defend America (or its policies).
My point was simply that if our Iranian friend says that the OP is "only lies", he should post his version of the truth.
Please don't include me in any further imaginary conversations you may have in the future. Many thanks.
Revolts? Not likely in any near future. The U.S. government and its corporate allies have the population so pacified that uprisings are not even a real possibility. Add to this the broad sweeping powers of law enforcement creating a near police state in what is supposed to be the freest country in the world.
What are they afraid of? You won't believe me when I say it: They are afraid of not making their quarterly profits.
This is what it boils down to; profits. Every war, every response to 'terrorism' and every encroachment on foreign lands; profit.
The American Dream is for sell to and for the highest bidders.
BTW, before someone says I'm talking out of my ass because I'm some foreigner; I'm an American. An American who loves America, but not the people who have decade upon decade worked to destroy it.
Does this really mean that those from Iran will be blocked from chess.com?