Google, Gmail Censored by Iranian Government

Dennis Faas's picture

The Iranian government has blocked its citizens' access to Gmail and a secure version of Google. The move appears to be the first part of a larger plan to control exactly what Internet sites Iranians can access.

An Iranian official who is part of a government group in charge of controlling Internet content says that "due to the repeated demands of the people, Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide. They will remain filtered until further notice." (Source:

The official did not make clear exactly who made these demands. Insiders, however, note that many Iranian businesses use Gmail to communicate with foreign suppliers and clients. As a result, these firms could be hurt by the blockage.

Filter Removes Google Security

Reports from Iran show the new "filtering" process actually makes accessing the Gmail site impossible. The Google search engine is still available, but only as an unsecured version.

Without Google's user-security features in place, Iranian Internet providers can track everything that individual users are looking for and, if persuaded or ordered to do so, could hand this data over to the government.

Some Iranians say they've been able to access their Gmail accounts through virtual private network (VPN) tools, which allow users to connect to remote (and in this case, non-Iranian) networks.

Iran has already said it will launch its own intranet system (a computer network that will be technically similar to the Internet but won't allow communication with computers and websites outside the country).

Once it is operating, all government services will be moved to this system, supposedly to avoid security threats. (Source:

Web Plans Appear Politically Motivated

Officially, the content on this Iranian intranet system will be selected to protect users from inappropriate content. However, many Iranians believe the real idea is to block any exposure to political opposition.

Originally, many observers thought Iran would set up this intranet and then cut all access to the international Internet. The government official who announced the Gmail and Google blocks now says this won't be the case, as Iranians still need to communicate with people outside the country.

Instead, the government seems to be continuing its tactics of blocking individual websites and services that could be of value to political opponents.

That may become a lengthy or even a never-ending process, as Iranians are continually switching to new sites, making government efforts at suppression rather like a game of whack-a-mole.

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