Iran Looks to Switch off the Internet
Western governments have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. Whilst many have lauded its impact in supporting the Arab Spring, many have equally shown a distrust of it.
Some for instance would like to have the ability to turn off the Internet during periods of civil unrest, such as a riot, whilst the UK government have leaked plans recently to snoop on the Internet usage of UK citizens.
So they make look on with a degree of envy at a recent announcement that Iran will be turning off the Internet. The Iranian government plan to replace the World Wide Web with their own intranet service, with the new 'web' set to launch in the next five months.
In a statement, the Iranian information and communication minister announced the setting up of a national Intranet and the effective blockage of services like Google, Gmail, Google Plus, Yahoo and Hotmail, in line with Iran's plan for a "clean Internet."
The first phase of this project will launch in May, after which services from Google, Yahoo and Hotmail will all be blocked. They will be replaced by alternative services provided by the Iranian government. Whilst some of the webs most popular services will be blocked, the remainder will remain open, at least for the time being.
The first phase will be followed however by a more extensive blocking of the entire web in August. Iranian citizens will have to apply to access this new service, with their application vetted against official state records.
Non-state provided sites will be available, but only providing they sit on the government approved white list. It isn't clear at this stage if Technorati will make the safe list or not.
Unveiling a six-point plan to implement the Iranian Intranet, the government said last March that the Internet "promotes crime, disunity, unhealthy moral content, and atheism," and that government's goal is to eliminate the online "scourges." In October last year, an Iranian official - who called Facebook users a threat to Islamic values - expressed concern that expansion of social media networks was harming the nation and society.
Whilst censorship of the web has been in place for some time, a complete blockage sets a new and dangerous precedent that may be followed by other totalitarian regimes. For anyone with an interest in freedom of speech and expression, this is indeed a sad day.