Google’s battle against global censorship is set to intensify today, as Iran permanently suspends access to the Gmail e-mail service in a bid to quell anti-government protests planned.
The country follows China in blocking some, or all, elements of Google’s Internet services. Authorities plan to replace Gmail with their own, national e-mail service.
Iran’s government is eager to avoid a repeat of last year's election protests, which received widespread media attention, the Wall Street Journal said.
Electronic messaging services like Gmail and Twitter were key elements in helping protestors co-ordinate their actions, and to broadcast news of the disquiet across the globe.
The prospect of fresh protests today, the 31st anniversary of the foundation of the Islamic Republic, prompted the government has pledged to launch a national e-mail service soon.
Authorities in the country have already arrested multiple alleged opposition activists in another move to quell the protests.
It is unclear whether the block has already been implemented, or if Iran even has the capability to do so. But Google told WSJ that Iranian users were having trouble accessing the service, and that the error was not with its equipment.
The Internet firm vowed it would not take the ban lying down. “Whenever we encounter blocks in our services we try to resolve them as quickly as possibly because we strongly believe that people everywhere should have the ability to communicate freely online,” a spokesperson said.
Google has taken a similar stance in Australia, where the firm is under pressure to censor YouTube searches covering controversial political content. The firm states that it will not voluntarily censor the search results, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
The company was responding to requests from communications minister Stephen Conroy to block Australian access to material deemed Refused Classification. While Google's own content rules block most content that would be refused classification, including sex and graphic violence, Australian law also bans other content, such as information on euthanasia, or material that shows how to commit a crime.
Conroy suggested that Google has the technology to block and filter content, as it has been doing so for China. He said Google should use the technology for Australia as well.