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Iran’s council on Internet filtering has unblocked Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Gmail after access was unintentionally denied as part of an effort to block YouTube. This recent crackdown by one of the world’s most heavy-handed censors was triggered by a highly controversial video called “Innocence of Muslims” that was posted on the site.
“We wanted to ban YouTube and then Gmail was cut off as well, and this was unintended,” said Mohammad Reza Aghamiri, a member of the filtering committee, to the Mehr News Agency. “We absolutely do not want YouTube to be accessible.”
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The video, which is widely viewed as insulting to Muslims, has caused massive protests and violence in Iran and other parts of the Middle East. Google has refused to take the video down despite the violence. An Islamist group called Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters cited the video when taking credit for a series of denial of service attacks against American banks like JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) that began on September 19.
Efforts to block YouTube by governments in Pakistan and India have caused problems for Google users as well. Services like Drive, Analytics, Maps, and the Play and App stores often get caught up in the process. Small businesses and entrepreneurs who rely on these services suffer the most.
A Pakistani blogger named Jawwad Farid drafted an open letter to Google asking them to address the issue, but it’s unclear how much authority the company has. If Google begins selectively pulling content, it could lose status as a neutral content provider. The labyrinth of international legislation and regulation surrounding service providers, government, and censorship also makes any progress to a solution almost prohibitively difficult.
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