The government of Iran began blocking Google’s encrypted search, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Videos, among others on February 10. The restrictions add to the online censorship that authorities have long imposed in the Islamic republic.
Users attempted to get on Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo and foreign news pages were either met with an Iranian page saying in Farsi that “Access to this page is a violation of computer crime laws” or the connection was slowed to such an extent to make it nearly impossible, the AFP reported.
Until now, some Internet users had been able to get around the blocks by using software known as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) — the sale of which is illegal in Iran. However, since last week, though, even most VPNs offered no solution. Internet service providers (ISPs), under the control of the state, seemed to be targeting the Internet’s most popular social networks and communication sites.
A top conservative lawmaker in Iran, Ahmad Tavakoli, warned that “such annoying filtering will cost the regime dearly,” according to the Mehr news agency. “If there are justifications on security grounds, officials should explain them clearly to the people,” he said.
But the head of one ISP, Mohammad Hassan Shaneh-Saz of the company Shatel, was quoted by Mehr saying the added restrictions were “not related to the quality of service from the ISPs.”
He claimed that the proposed “national Internet” would improve the situation when launched, by increasing available bandwidth.
The Internet is widely used Iran, where nearly half the 75-million strong population is connected.