Bloomberg News

Iran Should Explain Curbs on E-mail Services, Lawmaker Says

February 13, 2012

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Iran’s government risks alienating the public by restrictions it has imposed on e-mail services including Google Inc.’s Gmail, a senior lawmaker said.

“The recent practice of blocking services that are used by most people, without prior notice or reasonable explanation by officials, will lead to complaints,” Ahmad Tavakoli, the head of the parliament’s research center, told the Mehr news agency. “Such an irritating ban will be costly for the government.”

More than 30 million Iranian Internet users have been unable to access e-mail accounts, including Gmail and Microsoft Corp.’s Hotmail, Mehr said on Feb. 11. The news agency said late yesterday that local users are facing “slow internet, disconnections and blockage” on certain domestic and international websites.

Iranian government interference in the country’s telecommunications isn’t rare. In the aftermath of the disputed presidential election of 2009, which resulted in a second term for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the government limited people’s access to internet, satellite news channels and mobile phones, aiming to prevent opposition movements from building momentum.

Google Inc.’s encrypted search, Gmail, Google Videos and YouTube have been blocked in Iran since Feb. 10, the company said in an e-mailed response to a query. Certain websites such as Facebook and Twitter were already banned by the government.

Iran’s Information Technology Organization and the Telecommunication Infrastructure Co. said they are unaware of the issue, Mehr said on Feb 11. The head of the former, Saeed Mahdioun, said that any problems wouldn’t be the responsibility of his group and that he doesn’t use foreign e-mail services.

“Officials need to explain this issue to people in a clear and transparent way,” Tavakoli said.

--With assistance from Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem. Editors: Ben Holland, Karl Maier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at lnasseri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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