Iran General NewsIran to suspend Google's email

Iran to suspend Google’s email

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ImageWall Street Journal: Iran's telecommunications agency announced what it described as a permanent suspension of Google Inc.'s email services, saying a national email service for Iranian citizens would soon be rolled out. The Wall Street Journal

By CHIP CUMMINS And JESSICA E. VASCELLARO

ImageIran's telecommunications agency announced what it described as a permanent suspension of Google Inc.'s email services, saying a national email service for Iranian citizens would soon be rolled out.

It wasn't clear late Wednesday what effect the order had on Gmail services in Iran, or even if Iran had implemented its new policy. Iranian officials have claimed technological advances in the past that they haven't been able to execute.

Google didn't have an immediate comment about the announcement.

An Iranian official said the measure was meant to boost local development of Internet technology and to build trust between people and the government.

The measure was announced on the eve of the culmination of celebrations to mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic. Competing plans for pro-government and antigovernment demonstrations have set the stage for clashes between authorities and opposition protesters, who have taken to the streets repeatedly since contested presidential elections in June..

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday it couldn't confirm whether Iran planned to suspend Google's Gmail, but it said any efforts to keep information from Iranians would fail.

"While information technologies are enabling people around the world to communicate … like never before, the Iranian government seems determined to deny its citizens access to information, the ability to express themselves freely, network and share ideas," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

The Iranian regime has been intensifying a crackdown on supporters and leaders of Iran's opposition. Part of the government's efforts have involved tracking the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity of Iranians around the world, and identifying them at opposition protests abroad, say former Iranian lawmakers and former members of Iran's elite security force.

These efforts still haven't prevented a flood of online information about the protests from reaching the world. Opposition members and their supporters have honed their communication skills, taking advantage of video, still images and text messages posted on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and news Web sites to chronicle their latest antigovernment action.

Google's Gmail is one of the most popular of the Western email services in Iran; it appeals to the country's younger generation, which has formed the backbone of the opposition movement.

Iran's announcement adds to Google's mounting international headaches. The fate of its China business is up in the air, after the company said it would stop censoring its search results in compliance with Chinese law, responding to a major cyber attack it suffered and said it traced to the country. Since Google announced the move last month, executives have said it has gotten more difficult to do business in China in recent years but that they are hopeful they can continue to have some operations in the country.

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