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Iranians get some services back

Censor’s dead hand still felt on Facebook, Twitter

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Iranians have a little more Internet access than a few days ago, but access is still highly restricted.

Last week, the country imposed a block on SSL-based VPNs which, it seems, is still in place. Barring SSL/TLS traffic stopped Iranians from using the well-known TOR Project to bypass state censorship of Internet sites. In addition, Iranians found themselves unable to access Web-based mail sites like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail, along with a host of other popular services.

The Washington Post is now reporting that the blocks on e-mail services seem to be easing, although access remains blocked to Facebook and Twitter.

Users running into the officially-denied blocks either wait an eternity for sites to load, or receive a block-page attributing their lack of access to “computer crime regulations”.

The blocks are attributed to upcoming elections and the anniversary of its 1979 revolution.

With the country tightening its grip on what users are able to access online, there’s a growing speculation that the country’s so-called “Halal Internet” is imminent. Last April, the country’s head of economic affairs Ali Aqamohammadi told state newsagency IRNA that Iran plans this parallel Internet to counter “American dominance” over the Internet.

Iran has never explained in detail how such a project would operate. An alternate DNS root system creates a walled garden of sorts, but only if users don’t (or cannot) reach the rest of the world’s domains. A national-scale NAT firewall, on the other hand, is difficult to scale – as, arguably, Iran is discovering in its current efforts at censorship.

A member of Iran’s filtering committee, Mohammad Sadegh Afrasiabi, is reported by AFP as telling newspaper Hamshahri that the Iranian “national Internet” is four years away from implementation and won’t involve blocking e-mail. ®

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