The closely watched crackdown on Iran’s Internet access experienced another major development this week involving email access to the rest of the world. According to a new report from AFP, an order from the country’s telecommunications minister dictates that all telephone companies, banks, and insurance firms are prohibited from using foreign email services such as Google’s Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Microsoft’s Hotmail.
From now on, organizations fitting the aforementioned descriptions must use email addresses ending with iran.ir, post.ir, or chmail.ir. Accordingly, Iranian universities must use email addresses ending in ac.ir or .ir, and governmental bodies must use emails ending with gov.ir or .ir, according to AFP, which cited Asr Ertebatat.
These latest changes come as the country prepares to deploy what some have described as its “national Internet” or “halal Internet,” a system that would compel Iranians to only use Iranian email, search, and micro-blogging tools.
Last year, Ali Aghamohammadi, the government’s head of economic affairs, said “Iran will soon create an Internet that conforms to Islamic principles, to improve its communication and trade links with the world… We can describe it as a genuinely ‘halal’ network aimed at Muslims on a ethical and moral level.” And, just last month, the country took the wraps off its Supreme Council of Cyberspace, a group devoted to closely monitoring and policing Iran’s Interet use.
Iran’s increasing Internet controls have come under fire from foreign officials, including President Obama, who in March described the crackdown as an “electronic curtain,” according to Reuters. Reports from inside the country are similarly grim. Weeks ago, one Iranian Internet user told The Washington Post that “none of the fun sites such as Facebook work anymore. All I can read is official Iranian news websites.”
Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom advocacy group, recently ranked Iran (175) below China (174) and just a few slots above North Korea (178) in its most recent Press Freedom Index. Number one was Finland, while the U.S. ranked 47.