Iran has announced it has begun blocking Google search and Gmail from being accessed within the country's borders, as it prepares for a 2013 roll-out of a private, Iran-only internet network.

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On Sunday, an announcement on Iranian television declared that Google and Gmail would be filtered until further notice, effective immediately. While it has not been made clear whether or not this filtering would become permanent, citizens are not able to access the search engine or their Gmail accounts.

Although there was no official reason given for implementing this ban, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said the ban is a reaction to the anti-Islam film which was posted on video-sharing site YouTube, a site owned by Google. The filmed caused a lot of controversy throughout the Middle East and upset many in the Muslim world.

The censorship of Google happened just after the Washington Post gave more information about Iran's plans for a domestic internet network, set to launch in March 2013.

The Iranian government has previously cited cyber-security reasons to back the deployment of a domestic internet network, claiming it would help tighten the flow of information and shield the country from cyber attacks such as the one orchestrated by the US and Israel.


Back in June, the New York Times published a report quoting government sources which exposed the US government's collaboration with Israel on a cyber attack known as Stuxnet, against the computer system that runs Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz. The Us government's cyber warfare programme started under Geogre Bush's administration, but were continued and accelerated by President Obama soon after he took office..

During the summer of 2010, the Stuxnet worm came to light when it was accidentally set into the wild. The US or Israeli governments have never publicly admitted to the attack.

Attacks against Iran have increased recently, prompting the government to take several official websites offline in August, in a bid to secure sensitive information.

Many see the move to a private network as the Iranian government's increasing censorship and limiting access to information.

The country already has a heavily censored version of the web, with citizens having to use virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy servers to access sites such as Facebook that are blocked in the country.

Since the Arab Spring, the role of social media has in disseminating information has been widely acknowledged, and sites such as Twitter are now viewed as powerful tools in helping citizen uprisings.

Bank attacks denied

On Friday, Reuters reported Iran hackers were behind the attacks Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America had been subjected to over the last year. These claims were denied by Iranian officials.