The Iranian government announced yesterday that it has blocked access to Google and Gmail after receiving complaints about the anti-Islamic video "Innocence of Muslims. Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, the head of the committee that decides which websites should be blocked, said he had acted at the Iranian people’s request.
Tests carried out by Reporters Without Borders in Iran indicate that the blocking is effective in some places but varies according to the province and the Internet Service Provider. So not all Iranian Internet users are affected. On the other hand, some VPNs (virtual private networks), which are used for circumventing censorship, are reportedly no long working.
YouTube has been blocked in Iran since June 2009, when the authorities wanted to prevent the circulation of photos and videos of the crackdown on protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection. Previously, YouTube had been subject to targeted blocking and widespread filtering of videos that were not to the censors’ liking.
The blocking of Gmail is conveniently timed because it coincides with the launch of a government-run "National Internet" and national email service with much rigorous methods for verifying the identity of users. So the real aim seems to be to get more Iranians to switch to the national service.
All government offices and civil service department throughout the country are now connected to the national Internet network that became operational on 22 September.