The Iranian regime has been an enemy to freedom of speech for decades but on Sunday, September 23, 2012, they still surprised many by announcing that they would begin filtering Google and Gmail in the next hours.
An Iranian official, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, said this was due [fa] to a request by the public to oppose an anti-Islam film on YouTube that many see as blasphemous (Google owns YouTube). Khoramabadi is a key member of a “Commission to Determine Instances of Criminal Content”.
Meanwhile some speculate that the true reason for blocking Google has more to do with promoting the so called Iranian “national Internet” which was supposed to become operational on 22 September, but has so far not appeared.
Global Voices contacted several Iranians in different cities including Tehran, Shiraz and Qom. Almost all say they have no access to Gmail. A number of them are also unable to access Google search.
Arash Abadpour, a Canada-based Iranian blogger and computer scientist explained the situation to Global Voices as following:
Cutting off access to Google Search essentially pushes a significantly larger population towards looking for ways to be able to get around the filtering regime. A result of this process is not necessarily a “better” or “more free” Internet, but, nevertheless, the current course of action is not going to help the Iranian establishment either. They are pushing people towards a more vigilant approach to the Internet. They are telling people “go learn how to use a VPN”, and I foresee that being exactly what is going to happen.
A Facebook campaign has launched to call for Internet freedom and the right to access Google. Mana Neyestani's cartoon (right) on Google being filtered is eye-catching on this Facebook page.
Several Iranian netizens also tweeted about the filtering with irony. Behran Tajdin tweeted [fa]:
@Behrang: This “public” who requested Google filtering, did they not have gmail accounts? If they had, what do they use them for?
Saye Roshan tweeted [fa]:
@sayeeeeh: We blocked Gmail and Google, we brought up the rate for the dollar, I doubt we can make life harder for the USA with these actions.
In reality the primary victim in this decision is not Google, but the freedom of Iranians. It seems even virtual freedoms are too much for the Islamic regime.