Iran launches 'Mehr,' its own YouTube-like video hub

Iran's latest Web offering – designed for Iranians only and, perhaps more importantly, government-approved videos – is akin to YouTube.

Dubbed "Mehr," which translates to "affection" in Farsi, the video-sharing site arrives as rumours continue that Iran is allegedly working on its own country-wide Intranet that would allow the government to better restrict its peoples' access to un-Islamic content.

"From now on, people can upload their short films on the website and access (IRIB) produced material," said Lotfollah Siahkali, deputy chief of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, as reported by the Agence France-Press.

Iran has blocked YouTube since mid-2009, a fallout from the presidential elections that led to incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning approximately 62 per cent of the vote – a figure heavily disputed by a number of protesting Iranians following the announcement of the election results.

Additionally, filters commonly restrict Iranians' access to websites considered "anti-government." Google and Gmail both received this branding in September of this year, when Iran officially blocked its citizen's access to both sites, "until further notice," said an Iranian official at the time.

It's likely that a YouTube video posted at the time, critical of the Prophet Muhammad, was one of the undisclosed reasons for Iran's Google ban. Soon after the video was posted, Afghanistan blocked access to YouTube throughout the country. Google, as well, did a bit of blocking of its own.

"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video--which is widely available on the Web--is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries," read a statement by Google at the time.

Iranians routinely use virtual private networking technology in an attempt to bypass governmental restrictions on content – including social networks banned by the country, like Twitter or Facebook, or news sites that report on content that government officials find objectionable. It's unknown just how heavily the country's "new YouTube" will be monitored or censored – or, at the time of this article's writing, even what the new portal might look like as the site is currently difficult to access.