Iran plans to switch its citizens onto a domestic Internet network in what officials say is a bid to improve cyber security but which many Iranians fear is the latest way to control their access to the web.
The announcement, made by a government deputy minister on Sunday, came as state television announced Google Inc's search engine and its email service would be blocked "within a few hours".
"Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice," an official identified only by his last name, Khoramabadi, said, without giving further details.
The Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said Google ban was connected to the anti-Islamic film posted on the company's YouTube site which has caused outrage throughout the Muslim world. There was no official confirmation.
Iran has one of the biggest Internet filters of any country in the world, preventing normal Iranians from accessing countless sites on the official grounds they are offensive or criminal.
But many Iranians believe the block on sites such as Facebook and YouTube is due to their use in anti-government protests after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad in 2009 ( via in.reuters.com ).