Iran is now blocking direct access by its citizens to Google and Gmail over the Internet to protest Google's refusal to remove an anti-Islam film clip that was posted on YouTube, according to several reports.
"The decision to filter Google and Gmail has coincided with government plans to launch the initial phases of a national Internet, a countrywide network aimed at substituting services run through the World Wide Web," said a Sept. 23 story from The Guardian of London.
"'Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice,' said Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, an Iranian official with the state-run body in charge of online censorship and computer crimes," according to the report. "There was no indication as to whether the filtering would be temporary or permanent."
The protests center on an advertising film trailer that was apparently posted on YouTube for the anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims," the report states. "Khoramabadi claimed the decision was taken after Iranians pressed the authorities to filter the sites because of links to the film. The Young Journalists Club, an Iranian semi-official news agency that broke the news, said the move was in reaction to YouTube's refusal to take down the anti-Islam film."
In response to a reporter's inquiry, a Google spokeswoman said in a Sept. 24 email, “We have received information that users cannot get access to Gmail and Google Search in Iran. We have checked our networks and there is nothing wrong on our side."
The Guardian reported that by midnight in Tehran, Google was still accessible for some users, but that many could not use their Gmail accounts because they were being blocked by Internet service providers.
News of a possible Iranian national Internet project "has prompted fears among Web users that authorities might be planning to pull out of the global Internet, but some experts believe that they are creating it to secure the regime's own military, banking and other sensitive data from the outside world," according to The Guardian report. "Many Iranian have taken to social networking Websites such as Facebook and Twitter to react to Khoramabadi's announcement."
A related report from Reuters says that Iran's ban is seen by many Iranians as "the latest way to control their access to the Web."
Websites that express views that are considered anti-government in Iran are routinely blocked there, according to Reuters. "Iran has one of the biggest Internet filters of any country in the world, preventing normal Iranians from accessing countless sites on the official grounds they are offensive or criminal."
That's not necessarily accepted as the truth by Iranians, the report stated. Instead, "many Iranians believe the block on sites such as Facebook and YouTube is due to their use in anti-government protests after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad in 2009," the Reuters story stated.
Many Iranians have even found a workaround to such bans by government filters by "using virtual private network (VPN) software that makes the computer appear as if it is based in another country," according to Reuters. That method, however, isn't always without problems.
The possible Iranian national Internet project "would be fully implemented by March 2013 but it was not clear whether access to the global Internet would be cut once the Iranian system is rolled out," Reuters stated.
On Sept. 20, a Los Angeles County judge rejected an "emergency request" by an actress who starred in "Innocence of Muslims" to have the film clip removed from YouTube, according to a blog post from The Los Angeles Times.
"Superior Court Judge Luis Lanvin said Cindy Lee Garcia had not demonstrated "a likelihood to prevail on the merits" of her request," according to the post. "Attorneys for Google, which owns YouTube, had opposed pulling the video clip, but Garcia's attorney said she would continue to seek having it removed. Garcia sued the film’s producer and YouTube, claiming that clips from the controversial anti-Islam movie have led to death threats against her."
The actress alleged in her lawsuit that "she was subjected to 'credible death threats' and was no longer permitted to provide child care for her grandchildren" after scenes from the controversial film were posted in the trailer on YouTube, The Times reported.
"Clips from the film have triggered violent anti-American protests across the Muslim world and led to more than 17 deaths, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya," the blog post reported. "This week, rioting spread to Australia and Pakistan."