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Iran lifts ban on Google Search & Gmail

Iran has reportedly restored access to Google Search and Gmail, following a week of limited access that was implemented in response to an anti-Islam film posted to YouTube.

The country's telecommunications ministry committee said the Gmail block was involuntary and related to the country's ban on Google-owned YouTube.

"We do not have enough technical know-how to differentiate between these two services," committee member Mohammad Reza Miri said, as reported by the AFP.

The video-sharing site has been completely off limits to Iranian Internet users since 2009. Iran's telecommunications ministry is working to block YouTube under the HTTPS protocol, while leaving Gmail accessible.

The film in question, Innocence of Muslims, was uploaded to YouTube in July, prompting demonstrations in the Middle East. When US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed on 11 September in Libya, the attack was reportedly related to the movie, while others said it was pre-planned.

This is not the first time Iranian officials have taken steps to censor the web - or targeted Google. Back in May, Iran was irked that Google removed the name of the Persian Gulf on Google Maps and threatened to sue the search giant unless the name was restored.

In the same month, the country's telecommunications minister banned telephone companies, banks, and insurance firms from using foreign email services, including Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Microsoft's Hotmail.

Google keeps tabs on worldwide user access to its services via its Transparency Report, which noted a steep decline in Gmail usage during the last week. Google Search traffic, however, was steady despite the reportedly spotty access.

To avoid foreign content and services, Iran is allegedly developing its own closed version of the web, expected to remain free of content deemed un-Islamic, the AFP reported. The country's intranet will exist alongside the filtered Internet, but will not replace it.