Today, Iranian president addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. He claimed his country was seeking peace above all and charged the West with ratcheting up an arms race and said his country is only working on nuclear weapons because it is under threat from other powers.
The speech was far less incendiary than expected, however. His points were predictable and nothing was said matching the controversy of previous speeches made to the leaders of the world. Israel wasn’t even mentioned.
While he was making his tame address, citizens in Iran noticed their few freedoms getting even smaller today.
Iran announced that it was blocking access to Google and Gmail. Iranian users found they couldn’t access either site.
Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, the man in charge of censoring the internet in Iran, announced the new blocks. He said the censorship was actually requested by “the people,” heaping blame on the YouTube video “The Innocence of Muslims,” a controversial short film from America that has caused riots, censorship, and scores of deaths across the entire Middle East and other areas around the world.
“Due to the repeated demands of the people, Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide. They will remain filtered until further notice,” Khoramabadi decreed (through text message, no less).
Iran cut access to Google and Gmail during election season in February, but this censorship appears to be far more permanent. Iran has also cut access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube when it was convenient or the people were getting rowdy.
Businessmen in Tehran have been able to access Google using VPNs, or virtual private network software. Other than that, the site has been impossible to reach.
Officials also said Iran is working on its own national internet, one that would be cut off from the internet enjoyed everywhere else in the world. Authorities claimed that this Iranian private intranet would be more secure. Of course, it would also be much easier to censor and to monitor. Emails, searches and social media could be filtered and read by the government.
Iranian internet user Behran Tajdin tweeted “This “public” who requested Google filtering, did they not have gmail accounts? If they had, what do they use them for?”
A Facebook campaign has also been launched in support of Iranian internet freedom. Apparently, it hasn’t been blocked quite yet.