But cannot promise that the domestic and state-controlled email service will be free of censorship
The Iranian government has created a domestic email service for its citizens, according to a Sunday report on state television.
According to the report, each Iranian citizen will be given their own email address. The country is thought to have a population of 77.9 million people, but only 32 million people are thought to be internet users, and they face tight online controls and censorship.
Iran ban, thank you imam
The issue of online censorship within the Islamic Republic of Iran has long been an issue.
Under President Ahmadinejad, some Iranian industries were required to use email services based in the country. That said, many used Yahoo, Google, or Microsoft services when conducting business with foreign countries, thanks to the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).
But the use of foreign email accounts was banned in May 2012, and online users were supposedly restricted to using addresses within Iran’s own .ir domain
Many observers believed at that time that the Iranian ban was a precursor to the creation of an Iranian national intranet, which would be separate from the rest of the world and free of “un-Islamic” content.
Officials claimed in the past that it would be faster and more secure, but data shared on the network would of course be easier to monitor by the government.
And now the Iranian government has launched a national email service for its citizens, which will reportedly be managed by the country’s postal service.
Reuters quoted the Iranian Information and Communication Technology Minister Mohammad Hasan Nami as saying that the new email service would aid interaction between state authorities and the people.
“For mutual interaction and communication between the government and the people, from now on every Iranian will receive a special email address,” the Mehr news agency quoted Nami as saying. “With the assignment of an email address to every Iranian, government interactions with the people will take place electronically.”
It is not clear that this stage whether the national email service will be mandatory for all citizens, who would have to provide their local post office with their full name, national identification number and postcode. It is also not clear what steps the government will take if Iranian users are found to be using their own private email addresses.
Nami also reportedly said that local experts had created the service’s software, and the email addresses will use the “mail.post.ir” domain. It is thought that the government will build data centres throughout the country to support the new system.
Hardline To Moderate?
The report of the new email services comes amid a time of transition for Iran, as it moves from the hard-line regime of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who actively pursed a domestic nuclear programme and also repeated denials that the Holocaust ever took place.
Incoming President-elect Hassan Rouhani meanwhile is a relative moderate and he takes office next month. It is reported that he has called for less state intervention in people’s private lives, including less filtering of the Internet and a loosening of media controls.
The Internet issue for Iranians has been a controversial one in the past. In June 2011 for example, Anonymous hacked into the government’s servers and obtained over 10,000 emails. The country has also previously come under attack from the ‘Stars’ virus, and it is believed that the Stuxnet worm, which targeted Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in 2010, is still a threat.
Earlier this week, former intelligence consultant and whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged that the National Security Agency (NSA) collaborated with the Israeli government to create the Stuxnet program, which has disrupted Iran’s uranium processing capability and delayed its nuclear ambitions.
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Originally published on eWeek.