Iran launches its own YouTube-like video-sharing website

Mehr, the Iranian alternative to YouTube.

Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET

Iran has launched a video-sharing site as part of its latest effort to provide alternative, government-sanctioned internet services.

Dubbed “Mehr,” the Farsi word for affection, the site aims to attract Persian-speaking users and promote Iranian culture, according to the About Us page reviewed by Agence France-Presse.

“Now people can upload their short films to the website and access [IRIB] material produced,” said Lotfollah Siahkali, deputy director of broadcasting of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Iranian government is waging a battle against what it calls “inappropriate” content on the Internet. The government announced in September that it block access to Google’s search engine and Gmail in September, an apparent retaliation for a anti-Islamic film posted on the company’s YouTube site which caused outrage in the Muslim world.

At the same time, a government deputy announced that the government was moving forward with widespread plans to create a national internet as a way to improve cybersecurity. All government agencies and offices have already been connected to the “National Information Network”, according to a Reuters report at the time which said the next step was to connect citizens to the network.

The country is said to have developed a national intranet with the aim of creating a “clean internetThe Iranian government denied the reports, but Iranian media said the national system would be fully implemented by March 2013, Reuters reported. It remains unclear whether access to the World Wide Web would be cut off a once the Iranian system is deployed.

Iranian Internet users are well aware of the censorship they face. The government of the country cut internet access several times earlier this year, the latest of which blocked access to all encrypted international sites outside the country that operate on the Secure Sockets Layer protocol. Many Iranians use proxy servers on virtual private networks to circumvent government efforts to block access to foreign news sites and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Shirley K. Rosa