Dissatisfied with the blocked site YouTube, Iran announced its own video-sharing website on Sunday in an attempt to promote government-sanctioned content and amid steps to create its own internal, “National Internet.”
The “Mehr” sharing site, according to its About Us section, seeks to promote Iranian culture and attract Persian-speaking netizens, reported AFP. Translated into English, the word “mehr” means affection.
It is not clear how much Iranian authorities will monitor or censor the site.
“From now on, people can upload their short films on the website and access [state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting] produced material,” said IRIB deputy chief Lotfollah Siahkali in announcing the site.
Iran has censored YouTube since the 2009 mass protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection.
The Islamic Republic, which has been deemed one of the “Enemies of the Internet” by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, has also blocked access to Facebook and Twitter. It has also tried to block access to Western media websites, government sites, and even the popular online game World of Warcraft.
In September, Iran went even further, blocking access to all Google and Gmail services for some users after the controversial, amateurish “Innocence of Muslims” film was uploaded to YouTube that incensed protests across the Muslim world for several weeks.
At the time, Reporters Without Borders said the move was convenient for Iranian authorities because it coincided with plans to roll out its “National Internet” that Western governments and watchdogs fear will cut Iran off from the rest of the Web. The internal Internet aims to be free of Western content.
Iranian authorities have said that creating a national network is for security purposes in shielding Iranian businesses and government websites from cyber attacks.
“Internet in its essence is an unsafe network, it will be changed to a safe network for the electronic government’s exchanges through launching the national grid and using locally-made software,” Iranian Minister of Communication and Information Technology Reza Taghipour said, according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency.
Later, he told Al Jazeera in September: “The establishment of the national intelligence network will create a situation where the precious intelligence of the country won’t be accessible to these powers.”
The U.S. State Department, however, has been an ardent critic of Iran’s alleged “plans to place an electronic curtain of surveillance, satellite jamming and online filtering around its people,” cutting them off from information and ideas.
In response to the censorship, the United States and the European Union have placed sanctions on officials in Iran.
Communication Minister Reza Taghipour will also likely be sanctioned, after the State Department accused him last month of “ordering the jamming of satellite television broadcasts and restricting internet connectivity.”
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