The saga of Iran’s affront on an open internet acquired another chapter today as the government’s telecommunications ministry has prohibited telephone operators, insurance firms, and local banks from using foreign-hosted email services to communicate with clients. In effect, this bans email clients like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail – basically any email account with a domain that doesn’t end in .ir.
One Google luminary expressed his disappointment in the Iranian government: Google webspam master Matt Cutts.
For Iran’s government, slapping these kinds of muzzles on the beak of the internet is just business as usual. This year alone, authorities have blocked websites (including Gmail and YouTube), the internet, and, in a small act of comedic justice, even its own supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Still, that’s not to say that it’s an event unworthy of disapproval.
According to AFP, entities involved with the Iranian government are required to use email addresses ending with gov.ir to conduct business while universities need to use emails with the domain ac.ir. To be fair, though, this is far from being the worst example of Iran’s communication restrictions with the internet. More, isn’t it fairly common for businesses or universities to restrict what email clients an employee can use in order to conduct business correspondence? Regardless of who you are or where you are, you probably shouldn’t be using your personal Gmail or Yahoo email account to relate state secrets or even state not-so-secrets.
This restriction of foreign-based email providers for certain businesses and governments only looks bad in the context of Iran’s history of censorship and throttling of communication mediums but it’s hardly an egregious decision. Were this, say, Sweden who mandated that some businesses and governments needed to use state-sponsored emails in order to interact with clients, it would hardly be news-worthy.