Iran lifts restrictions on Gmail, vows to “absolutely” censor YouTube

Iran lifts restrictions on Gmail, vows to “absolutely” censor YouTube

Iran raised suspicion worldwide when it banned access to Gmail last week but the country has renounced that block, if only because it is planning stiffer measures to prevent access to YouTube from its soil.

The AFP reports that ministers in the country revealed that Google’s email service was blocked “involuntarily” as part of efforts to clamp down on YouTube, which is likely to be hit by more censorship very soon.

Iran is lacking the necessary technical ability to knock-out YouTube without affecting Gmail, that’s according to Mohammad Reza Miri, who is part of the Internet censorship team within the telecommunications ministry committee.

“Unfortunately, we do not yet have enough technical know-how to differentiate between these two services. We wanted to block YouTube and Gmail was also blocked, which was involuntary,” he told the newswire.

The shortcoming of the technical team were exposed by the fact that, during the blackout, Gmail remained accessible via the HTTPS protocol. Overcoming that is the key issue for Iranian authorities, who continue to be dead-set on blocking YouTube.

“We absolutely do not want YouTube to be accessible. That is why the telecommunications ministry is seeking a solution to fix the problem to block YouTube under the HTTPS protocol while leaving Gmail accessible. That will soon happen,” Miri said.

There is still confusion over the current status of YouTube in Iran however. Despite Miri’s comments suggesting that it is unblocked — as authorities are unable to restrict without impacting upon Gmail — suggests it remains blocked. That’s in contrast to Gmail which is showing up as unrestricted.

If you’re in Iran and reading, do let us know whether you can access either site.

This unfortunate saga is just the latest in a long line of censorship issues in Iran, which is of no surprise given that the country has plans to ‘remove’ itself from the Worldwide Web, using its own controlled system instead.

Iran blocked Google and YouTube back in February and, in April, authorities denied reports suggesting that open Internet access would be closed down in August. That confusion came as the government announced plans to phase out access to Western email service in favour of a state-run alternative – though the plan for a North-Korea style intranet is still on the horizon.

Given the past history and Riza’s comments, the next YouTube (and possible Gmail) shutdown is not likely to be far away.

There’s been plenty of international reaction over YouTube following an anti-Muslim video. Pages on the site were blocked in Afghanistan, while Pakistan called for protests in response to the content.

An entirely separate issue saw Google’s president in Brazil was briefly jailed over the company’s failure to screen political videos, although the company eventually relented and he was released.

Image via Flickr / korosirego

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