Iran has barred access to Google and Gmail in a bid to enhance cyber security and oppose a movie against Islam that has triggered protests across the Muslim world.
The country has also restricted access to Google’s search page to its unsecured version and is planning to offer its citizens a domestic Internet network, which will be separate from the worldwide Internet, reports say.
Though the officials claim that the step has been taken to improve security, some believe that it is a way to control Iranian citizen’s access to the web.
The limits were revealed by Iran’s public prosecutor office adviser, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, who said in a statement: "Due to the repeated demands of the people, Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide. They will remain filtered until further notice."
Several Tehran residents were cited by AFP as saying that they were only able to access their Gmail accounts through the use of virtual private network (VPN) software.
Iran’s new intranet service is said to be faster and more secure and is stripped of un-Islamic content, although users’ data will be facilitated subject to monitoring.
Iran’s parliamentary communication committee head Mohammad Soleimani told ISNA that, "the establishment of the ‘National Internet’ will not cut access to the Internet."
"Cutting access to the Internet is not possible at all, because it would amount to imposing sanctions on ourselves, which would not be logical. However, the filtering will remain in place," Soleimani said.
Many workers in Iran use Gmail to communicate and exchange documents with foreign companies.
In February this year, Iranian authorities momentarily restricted access to Google and Gmail prior to parliamentary elections.
Since mid-2009, the search engine giant’s YouTube video-sharing site has also been censored, after protests and opposition claims of vote fraud following elections. Iran will also routinely block other social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter.