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Iran began the process of shutting down citizens' access to the Internet on Sunday by suspending access to Google and Gmail nationwide. By March 2013, the country's officials also announced, Iran will unveil its own domestic Internet network aimed to serve as a substitute for the World Wide Web. Sound sort of like a propaganda machine doesn't it? Well, it's all in the name of cyber security, Iran said. And there might even be a state-sponsored dating site.

It's no huge surprised that Iran is clamping down on what its citizens can access online. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iran is ranked number four on the list of most censored countries, right after North Korea, Syria and Eritrea. Iranian authorities have already blocked Facebook and Twitter as well as most major western media outlets. (The New York Times, The Guardian points out, is not censored. The Guardian is.) According to Reuters, "Sites expressing views considered anti-government are also routinely blocked."

Of course, plenty of people think that Iran's decision to restrict Google is connected to the widely despised anti-Muslim video that went viral on YouTube recently. It might not be the only reason, but the timing is somewhat suspect. Furthermore, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, an Iranian official who helps regulate the Internet there, did say that the government made the decision to cut off access to Google and Gmail came after the video surfaced. And remember: Iran is doing this for cyber security reasons. It's definitely not political. Is it?

Who really knows what's going on in Tehran. On one hand, the country had some cyber security problems lately with the StuxNet virus and all. On the other hand, Iran does have a pretty shady track record when it comes to freedom of information. So let's look on the bright side. At least, they're not shutting off the Internet altogether. There's always Bing!

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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