Iran unblocks Gmail, plans local alternatives

Government lifts ban on Google's e-mail service after blocking it last week, following plans to introduce domestic versions of search and e-mail services soon.

Iran has lifted its online blocks on Gmail, but an official says additional censorship is being prepared against YouTube. This comes as the country revealed it was introducing domestic versions of Google's search engine and e-mail service soon.

According to AFP on Monday, Internet users in Iran found themselves able to freely access their Gmail accounts for the first time since the blocks were suddenly in place on Sep. 24.

The secure-protocol HTTPS version of Google search was also made accessible after being blocked at the same time, while the unsecure HTTP version remained unblocked.

Last week, Iran had blocked Gmail but not Google's search engine, in response to a court order linked to the distribution of controversial anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" on YouTube, also owned by Google.

An Iranian official, had then stated that "due to the repeated demands of the people, Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide. They will remain filtered until further notice."

However on Monday, Mehr news agency cited Mohammad Reza Miri, a member of Iran's telecommunications ministry committee tasked with Internet filtering in Iran, explaining the the Gmail block had been an "involuntary" consequence of trying to reinforce censorship of YouTube.

"We absolutely do not want YouTube to be accessible. That is why the telecommunications ministry is seeking a solution to fix the problem to block YouTube under the HTTPS protocol while leaving Gmail accessible. That will soon happen."

Changing approach to censorship
YouTube has been effectively censored in Iran since mid-2009, according to data from Google monitoring traffic connectivity.

The Iranian government last week also announced plans to move citizens to its local Internet system, which it said will be fully implemented by March 2013.

The country also touted on Sunday it would soon introduce its own domestic alternatives--the Fakhr search engine and Fajr e-mail services, according to Associated Press (AP).