The controversial movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ has triggered widespread backlash in Muslim countries. While countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan decided to temporarily ban YouTube over hosting the clip of the said movie, Iran is gearing up for a more wide-scale measure. It is planning to block access to Google altogether.
The block hasn’t been enacted as of yet but it has been reported that Gmail users are able to access the service intermittently – this may be because the authorities are working on fully blocking the service. Specifically, in the city of Tehran, many citizens have cited that they can no longer access their Gmail accounts.
According to an Iranian official, commenting on the issue, “Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice.” Interestingly, the intents of blocking Google and Gmail have been made public by the Iranian regime at about the same time when it is planning to launch a ‘national internet.’
The national internet will essentially connect all governmental departments with each other and will also be used to effectively filter out any content the government wants to block. In other words, it may as well turn out to be a watered-down version of China’s Great Firewall.
According to an Iranian IT expert who is working on the ‘national internet’ project, “Iran has fears of an outside cyber-attack like that of the Stuxnet, and is trying to protect its sensitive data from being accessible on the world wide web.”
While Iran’s grievances about cyber attacks are true, given the fact that Stuxnet specifically targeted sensitive Iranian information, a blanket ban on commonly used service is no solution to address this problem. In the past too, Iran has censored a huge number of websites which are routinely accessed by the users through proxy servers.