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Iran preps Internet cutoff

Updated: AFP casts doubt on August date

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Iran has moved to protect its citizens’ privacy against American Imperialist Data Harvesters*; unfortunately for Iranians, the plan involves taking the whole country off the Internet.

International Business Times is reporting that the country’s plan to set up a national intranet – its notorious “clean Internet” – will be complete by August. This will block US-hosted services like Google and Hotmail, replacing them with an Iran-only search engine and mail service, for which users will have to seek government registration and approval to use.

In a statement from the country’s ICT minister Reza Taghipour reported by the IBT, the minister says that by August, “all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should only present the national Internet”.

The plan extends the country’s current white-list for international sites. In February, Iran moved to stop its citizens using VPN technologies to circumvent the white-list, blocking all SSL and TLS traffic, according to the Tor project’s Joseph Applebaum.

A variety of vendors – including Huawei, Nokia Siemens Networks and ZTE – have been accused of helping Iran’s regime censor and snoop on Internet traffic in that country. ®

*Bootnote: I've made the mistake in the past of not being explicit about this: yes, that first paragraph was meant to be irony.

Update: An AFP journalist has contacted El Reg to suggest that the cutoff date reported by IBT emerged as a result of an April Fool joke emerging late.

The AFP staffer in the Tehran bureau, Marc Burleigh, says that the story "first emerged" on April 1, then re-emerged last Thursday (April 5), prompting "the Communications Ministry to issue this statement: http://www.ict.gov.ir/newsdetail-6078-fa.html."

Apparently, the prank relates to the August date, since as Burleigh notes, Iran is continuing with its plans to create the national network and exclude much of the rest of the world.

El Reg has been unable to confirm the ministry statement, however, since the referenced site - ict.gov.ir - doesn't seem to be accessible from Australia. So we remain unsure whether or not we've been punked.

AFP has also kindly provided a translated excerpt from the ministry's statement:

"The report (of Internet being blocked from August) is in no way confirmed by the Ministry of the Information Technology and Communications. Like the year before, publishing this report has provided a propaganda ground for Western colonialist media wannabes."

"It is not clear why the websites (which published the report), whether purposely or unpurposely, have acted as a propaganda wing of the West and provided these hostile media with an excuse based on a baseless claim."®

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