The Iranian government has reportedly begun blocking access to the Internet. A post on Hacker News explains that since yesterday, it’s been difficult to impossible to get online. “Since Thursday Iranian government has shutted [sic] down the HTTPS protocol which has caused almost all Google services (Gmail, and Google.com itself) to become inaccessible,” Sara70 writes. “Almost all websites that rely on Google APIs (like Wolphram Alpha) won’t work.”
This month marks the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution (a celebration which continues through March), and the Iranian government is allegedly attempting to contain potential demonstrations by quieting citizens’ connection to the rest of the world.
Websites using HTTPS are many: in addition to Google and its various Web products, they include Facebook, Hotmail, and Yahoo. An Iranian citizen who wished to remain anonymous told Cnet this morning that despite the widespread news, the government is denying these actions.
If the Iranian officials plan to cut off citizens during the entire holiday, that means Iran could be in the dark until next month. Iran operates its Internet much like China, meaning it has its own state run firewall. According to various reports, work-arounds typically used to circumvent this are not working.
Last year the Middle East fell into a similar Internet blackout when protestors’ demonstrations began making the rounds via various social networking sites. Despite the heavy-handed censorship, the Arab Spring revolutions continued on and there were even spikes in activism as a result of the black outs.
Still, the Internet has proved a powerful tool not only in reaching the outside world but in uniting forces on the inside. Facebook and Twitter have particularly been mouthpieces of the people during these recent rebellions. Although this should cause everyone to wonder how Twitter’s new International censorship policy will work in practice.
In 2009, Iranian citizens used Twitter to organize what have become called the “Twitter Revolutions.” The microblogging site even delayed scheduled maintenance so that it could remain up and running for the protestors. Relationships between US-based Web companies and Iran have remained tense since, and intense restrictions remain. However, any progress that’s been made may be hurt by the nation’s decision to restrict citizen access.