Iran Lowers Block on Gmail; YouTube Still Censored

Dennis Faas's picture

Iran's government has removed its block on Gmail in that nation, claiming it didn't mean to restrict access to the service. It now says the block was an unintended result of a deliberate effort to stop Iranians from viewing YouTube.

These new claims contradict an earlier comment from an Iranian official who said last week: "Due to the repeated demands of the people, Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide. They will remain filtered until further notice."

Another government official now says: "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." (Source:

While there's no way of knowing which story is true, the new explanation makes some sense. It appears Iran simply blocked all Google-operated sites that use secure connections for transferring data to and from users.

That blocked off Gmail completely, as the service is always secure. It also brought down the secure version of the Google search engine while leaving the standard, unprotected version still accessible.

YouTube Remains On Blacklist

The official stressed that, though the Gmail and Google blocks were unintentional, the Iranian government has absolutely no intention of allowing its citizens to access YouTube.

That country has been trying to block access to the site for the past three years, almost certainly to restrict communication between, and publicity for, political opponents.

Iran's government does seem to be having trouble keeping its stories straight, however. A third official has suggested the Google block was not only deliberate, but was designed to punish the company for YouTube hosting a controversial anti-Islamic video.

Iranian politicians also seem unclear about the nation's plans to launch an intranet -- a computer network accessible only within Iran and subject to much closer government control.

It's unclear whether the plan is designed to make this intranet a rival to the Internet or a replacement.

Iran Planning Own Rivals to Gmail, Google

A Iranian government member said this week that Iran is already working on a government-run search engine and email service. They'll be known as Fakhr and Fajr respectively, which roughly translate as Pride and Dawn.

Whatever the government policy towards Google, at least some foreign companies are profiting from the censorship.

An Iranian newspaper reports that people in the country have paid a combined $4.5 million over the past month to use services that disguise Internet communications to help them access blocked sites. (Source:

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