The majority of computer users in Iran have been blocked from accessing email and social networking sites on the internet in the past few days.
Internet experts in the U.S. announced the temporary censorship on Monday. The blockage directly affected encrypted international websites located outside of Iran that function on the Secure Sockets Layer Protocol (HTTPS). Websites like Google and Facebook were inaccessible during the internet block.
According to Bloomberg, more than 30mn Iranian internet users were unable to access their e-mail accounts, including Gmail and Microsoft’s hotmail.
This has occurred in less than a month before the country has parliamentary elections on March 2 and days after Iran’s parliament called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning, the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
"The government is testing different tools," Hamed Behravan told Reuters. Behravan reports on Iranian technology issues for the U.S. government-funded Voice of America. "They might have wanted to see the public reaction."
Iranian internet traffic returned to normal on Monday and it is unclear why the blockage was stopped.
Since the beginning of this year, the Iranian ministry of information and communication technology has reportedly been in the testing phase of creating a countrywide "national internet" network. The goal is to take the place of services run through the World Wide Web.
According to a January report by the Guardian, the government is working on "software robots to analyse exchanging emails and chats" in efforts for more "effective ways of controlling user online activities."
Iran’s plans to launch the "halal internet," which will be catered to Islamic values and provide what it deemed as more appropriate services, keeping "unwanted" external information from entering the closed network. If such a network goes into effect it will be very similar to North Korea’s Kwangmyong network.
"According to some of the people in charge of the communication industry, attempts to launch a national internet network are the cause of disruption in internet and its speed reduction in recent weeks," Roozegar newspaper reported earlier this year.
"If the national internet comes into effect, the internet in the country will act like an internal network and therefore visiting the websites needs permission from the people in charge. Users outside Iran also need permission to visit websites running from inside the country," Roozegar’s report said.
If the "halal network" does come into effect, permission will be needed for external users to visit websites in the network and Iranian’s visiting external websites.
"If the national internet comes into effect, the internet in the country will act like an internal network and therefore visiting the websites needs permission from the people in charge. Online users outside Iran also need permission to visit websites running from inside the country," Roozegar’s report said.
Iranian officials have stated that they do not intend to block all connections outside of Iran from the new national network system they are currently developing.
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