Iran Announces Plan To Launch Domestic Internet By March 2013 (And To Block Google Today)

It seems that the Iranian government is working to take even tighter control of the country’s already heavily-censored version of the Internet.

The government said that it’s going to launch its own domestic Internet, and that the system will be fully operational by March 2013, according to Reuters and others (who, in turn, seem to be basing their reports on the Iranian media). It’s not clear whether all access to sites outside of Iran will be blocked once the domestic system is live.

Cybersecurity is the official reason for the growing online restrictions (sites like YouTube and Facebook are already blocked), but it’s probably not coincidental that the Internet was also seen as a key tool in 2009’s protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (The importance of tools like Facebook and Twitter in those protests has been the subject of some debate.) Iranians “commonly” get around the existing government filters by using VPN software, Reuters says.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that an Iranian domestic Internet system was in the works, giving the government more power to restrict online access during protests or other periods of civil unrest. However, planning such a system and actually making it work are two different things — a retired security director from the National Security Agency told the Post that “any attempt by a country to make an intranet is doomed to failure.”

The Iranian government also announced, via state television, that it will be blocking accessing to Google and Gmail within “a few hours.” The Iranian Students’ News Agency says this is in response to the anti-Islamic “Innocence of Muslims Video” that was posted (and then blocked) on YouTube. I’ve emailed Google for more information and will update if I hear back.