Anticipating Protests, Iran Disrupts Internet Communications

In an effort to disrupt communications and head off huge opposition demonstrations planned for Thursday, the Iranian authorities on Wednesday drastically slowed Internet service in Iran and shut down text messaging services, and an official said that Gmail, the Google e-mail service, would be blocked.

It was not immediately clear if Gmail would be blocked permanently, but users inside Iran said that because of the extremely slow speed of Internet service, they had been unable to open Gmail or the Yahoo e-mail service for the last week.

The opposition movement has relied heavily on the Internet, using text messaging, e-mail and videos to spread information about the demonstrations and the crackdown by the government.

Google confirmed “a sharp drop in traffic” that could not be attributed to equipment failure on its end. “Whenever we encounter blocks in our services we try to resolve them as quickly as possible,” a spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker, said, “because we strongly believe that people everywhere should have the ability to communicate freely online. Sadly, sometimes it is not within our control.”

Thursday is the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, a traditional day of celebration. Since the uprising began in June, after a disputed presidential election, protesters have used the cover of such public events to take to the streets. And soon after 10 p.m. Wednesday in Tehran, forbidden cries of “God is great” could be hea… >>>

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