Millions of Internet users in Iran could soon be permanently cut off from the Web, social networks, and e-mail.
In a statement released last week, Reza Taghipour, the Iranian minister for Information and Communications Technology, announced plans to establish a national intranet within five months in an effort to create a "clean Internet," the International Business Times reported today. "All Internet Service Providers (ISP) should only present National Internet by August," Taghipour said in the statement.
Web sites such as Google, Hotmail, and Yahoo will be blocked and replaced by government-administered services such as Iran Mail and Iran Search Engine, according to the report. The government has already begun a registration process for those interested in using the Iran Mail that will verify and record each user's full name and address.
Iran's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology called the International Business Times' report "completely baseless," according to a newer report in the International Business Times. "The report is in no way confirmed by the ministry," the ministry stated, blaming the original report on the "propaganda wing of the West."
Iranian Internet users have grown accustomed to censorship. The country's government cut off access to the Internet a few times earlier this year, the latest of which blocked access to all encrypted international sites outside the country that operate on Secure Sockets Layer protocol. Many Iranians use proxy servers over Virtual Private Networks to circumvent government efforts to block access to foreign news sites and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Taghipour told the Islamic Republic News Agency in January that a firewalled national Internet would soon become operational but gave no specifics as to when that would happen. The creation of such a vast "intranet" has worried cyberactivists in Iran because it would give the government an advantage in its cyber cat-and-mouse battle with opponents.
Updated at 9:45 a.m. PT on April 10 with the Iranian ministry's official statement denying original report.