In the wake of the anti-Islam YouTube video that has led to widespread protests in the Muslim world, Iran has announced that it intends to restrict access to Google products like search and Gmail indefinitely.
Iranian citizens were informed of the government’s decision via a message on state television and SMS over the weekend. According to the BBC, Abdul Samad Khoramabadi, an adviser to Iran’s public prosecutor’s office, said that “Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide, and will remain filtered until further notice.” Google-owned YouTube has been blocked in the country for some time.
The country’s Mehr news agency said that strong “public demand” drove the decision to restrict access to the services, but the announcement is being seen as yet another move to tighten up access to international websites. Earlier this year, the government reportedly introduced restrictions against email providers like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail, requiring banks, universities and telecoms to switch over to local .ir mailboxes. The latest round of censorship fits with the Iranian government’s plans to move the country off the greater web and on to a national, controlled intranet.
After the disputed presidental election in 2009, the government tightened its grip on the web and earned the title of the biggest enemy of internet freedom by blocking access to networks like Facebook and websites which express anti-government sentiment, which means that citizens who want to access the full web need to do so using virtual private networks.