GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS in Iran have announced that the country has permanently suspended Google's Gmail service and will be rolling out its own email service for the Iranian people.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google posted a statement that said, "We have heard from users in Iran that they are having trouble accessing Gmail. We can confirm a sharp drop in traffic, and we have looked at our own networks and found that they are working properly. Whenever we encounter blocks in our services we try to resolve them as quickly as possibly because we strongly believe that people everywhere should have the ability to communicate freely online."
After the Chinese censorship debacle, we were expecting Google to follow suit and publicly renounce the Iranian move but it has opted for diplomacy rather than risk embarrassment. Less can be said for the US State department, which waded in with sharply worded criticism, saying, "The Iranian government seems determined to deny its citizens access to information and the ability to express themselves freely, network and share ideas."
It's no coincidence that the timing of the ban comes as Iran celebrates the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Iran is willing to make symbolic gestures of defiance against the West and its Gmail ban must be framed in the context of the government's claims that political unrest last year was sponsored by the US CIA. µ