UPDATE 2:05 p.m. ET: According to Google’s Transparency Report, there isn’t currently a visible blockage.
“We have received information that users cannot get access to Gmail and Google Search in Iran,” a Google spokesperson told Mashable via email. “We have checked our networks and there is nothing wrong on our side.”
12:02 p.m. ET: The Iranian government blocked access to Google‘s search engine and Gmail as the country readies a closed domestic Internet system.
On Sunday evening, Iran’s government deputy minister said the country is making this switch as part of cyber-security measures, according to a Reuters report. However, the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) believes the ban stems from the highly controversial anti-Islamic film that was posted on YouTube, inciting an uproar in the Middle East.
This isn’t the first time Iran has blocked Google for its estimated 23 million users. The government frequently cuts off access to YouTube, Google Reader, Facebook and other websites it deems to be criminal or offensive. When mainstream websites are up and running, the government monitors web activity — collecting passwords, login details and other information from individuals.
Iranian web traffic must pass through a National Gateway that filters banned content. In the past, Iranian citizens circumnavigated these blackouts by using virtual private networks (VPN) to make it look like their computers are located in a different country. But Iran’s new domestic internet will make penetrating foreign websites impossible.
Iran’s nuclear program was attacked in 2010 by a Stuxnet computer worm. This summer, Iran’s nuclear energy group, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, reportedly said it was hit by malware that shut down some of the facility’s automated processes.
Iran announced it was building a domestic Internet in March 2011 after social media ignited protests during its 2009 election. In May, the country threatened legal action against Google after it removed the name “Persian Gulf” from Google Maps.
Photo courtesy of Flickr, Parmida76