April 11, 2012 at 2:13 PM ET
Iran says it will not create a walled-off Internet around its citizens by August, calling it a hoax that's being perpetuated by "the propaganda wing of the West."
Recent reports suggested such a plan might be on track for this summer, when the Internet would be replaced in Iran with a national Internet, more like an intranet, that would block services like Google and Hotmail and replace them with email and search services from the Iranian government.
Last month, President Barack Obama accused Iran of imposing an "electronic curtain" on its citizens by blocking more than 30 million Internet users from Web and email access before the country's parliamentary elections.
As msnbc.com's Alex Johnson wrote recently, Iran has referred to Google and other search engines as "spying tools," and "has throttled access to foreign web servers previously at politically sensitive times. The free-expression activist group Reporters Without Borders has branded Iran as an 'enemy of the Internet.' (.pdf)" Its penchant for control was witnessed worldwide in 2009, after protests of the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when the national slowed and stopped most Internet connections.
News agency AFP said that the August closed-Internet date came from "a supposed interview with Communications Minister Reza Taghipour published on April 1 that was in fact a hoax, the ministry said in the statement on its own site www.ict.gov.ir -- which itself was not accessible outside of Iran."
The ministry said the report was a hoax and serves only "the propaganda wing of the West," noted the International Business Times.
But a firewalled Internet, much like those in China and North Korea, is not propaganda. In Iran, it's not a matter of if, but when.
"The Internet is an uninvited guest which has entered our country," Mohammad Reza Aghamiri, a member of the Iranian government's Internet filtering committee, said in February. "Because of its numerous problems, severe supervision is required."
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