Iran to shutter ‘open Web’ access in August

MANILA, Philippines — The Middle-Eastern nation of Iran is set to shut down access by its citizens to the Internet starting in August as it moves to put in place a state-controlled national Intranet in the months to come, according to a report by the International Business Times.

The announcement, made by Information and Communications Technology Minister Reza Taghipour, immediately curtails Iranians’ access to such services as Google, Gmail, Google Plus, Yahoo! and Hotmail.

By May, the first phase of the project will replace Google, Yahoo! and Hotmail services with state-sanctioned Internet services such as Iran Mail and Iran Search Engine, in the country’s bid to promote a “clean Internet.”

According to the report, Taghipour was quoted sometime in March to have said that the Internet “promotes crime, disunity, unhealthy moral content, and atheism.” Some government officials have also expressed concern over the boom of social media as inflicting harm on society.

The final stage of the shuttering plan would involve the launch of the national Intranet in August, which will permanently ban access to “outside” Internet in Iran.

“All Internet Service Providers (ISP) should only present National Internet by August,” Taghipour said in the statement.

Prior to this, Iran has already exercised strict control over Internet Service Providers that do not comply with the government’s filter list. Just recently, the state had blocked access the official website of the London 2012 Olympics for undisclosed reasons.

The move is seen partly as a response by the Iran government to the widespread protests drawn up by Iranians over social networking site Twitter during the presidential elections in 2009.

Censoring the Internet has also been the strategy of governments attempting to curb revolutions that toppled dictatorships in countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia in what has been popularly dubbed as the Arab Springs.

China is a popular model for such widespread Internet censorships through what is called the “Great Firewall of China,” which restricts access to many popular Internet sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

In the mainland, only state-sanctioned Chinese Internet services — such as QQ, an instant messaging application, and Baidu, China’s answer to Google — are allowed to thrive thanks to the scale provided by the huge population of the Asian powerhouse.