TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran has blocked access to the Google search engine and its Gmail email service as part of a clampdown on material deemed to be offensive, the Mehr news agency reported on Monday.
"I can confirm these sites have been filtered," said Hamid Shahriari, the secretary of Iran's National Council of Information.
He did not explain why the sites were being blocked. Google, Gmail and several other foreign sites appeared to be inaccessible to Iranian users from Monday morning.
Iran has tough censorship on cultural products and internet access, banning thousands of websites and blogs containing sexual and politically critical material as well as women's rights and social networking sites.
The rules are applied by Internet Service Providers who use filtering programmes to prevent access to the banned sites.
The programmes work by honing in on key words which trigger the blocking of a site, which means that some perfectly anodyne sites are inaccessible as well as more sensitive ones.
The filtering aims to prevent Iranians from accessing decadent material posted abroad, a similar goal to the ban on satellite dishes which are subject to period crackdowns.
Iran is in the midst of one of its toughest moral crackdowns in years, which has already seen thousands of women warned for failing to obey Islamic dress rules.
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