• 12 July 2011
  • Posted By Ali Tayebi
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Sanctions, Uncategorized

Left Outside the Circle: Iranians and Google+

The newly launched Google social network service called Google+ has created a major buzz online, but has also sparked many questions (and some answers).  Why do we need another social network? What does it have to offer more than Twitter and Facebook?

But for Iranians, there is an even bigger question: will I even be allowed to use Google+?

That’s because the combination of the online filtering carried out by Iran’s government, paired with a U.S. sanctions regime that dissuades companies from offering services in Iran, often leaves Iranians stuck in limbo when it comes to access to social networking tools.

Sadly, with Google+ it looks like the supposedly contradictory forces of repression and sanctions are yet again working in tandem to leave ordinary Iranians outside of the social networking loop.

Over the past decade, despite the many obstacles, Iranians have been vanguards in utilizing social networks. Their journey started with Orkut, which created a huge amount of excitement around experiencing totally new online atmosphere.  Soon after, Orkut was blocked.

Then Yahoo 360 became popular and remained popular until Facebook emerged. Iranians settled into this social network like many other users around the world, and they gradually found their way to bypass the Iran government’s filtering by using VPN or anti-filter software. At the same time, some Iranians use Google Reader, which they called Gooder, as an underground sphere to distribute contents of blocked websites and news agencies in Iran.

Through Facebook, Iranian public figures for the first time started to publicly use social media to directly interact with their supporters. Eventually, Facebook was used in the 2009 election (and later in its aftermath), along with Twitter and YouTube–inspired in part by how Obama’s 2008 campaign utilized these tools. In so doing, Iran became the first Middle-Eastern country to use social media to mobilize people for political purposes. The phenomenon, sometimes referred to as a “twitter revolution” or Revolution 2.0, followed again with the Arab Spring.

Last week, when Google launched Google+ after two unsuccessful experiences in Google Buzz and Google Wave, Iranians started to look to the service and begin considering it next to Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader. The initial impression of Google+ is that it has two main areas of potential for Iranians: 1) its integration with Google Reader can unveil the underground networks of Google Reader and easily provide broad access to censored information in Iran, 2) its integration with Google’s homepage, Gmail, and the new Google Toolbar can expand accessibility of Iranians to social networks because history shows that Google services have been the most challenging Internet services for Iran’s government to block.

But even before Google+ become publicly available, Iranians faced difficulties. First, Google banned this service for Iranian IPs and called Iran a “forbidden country.”  Then, a few days later, the Iranian government added Google Plus to their huge list of censored websites.

Now, VPN is the only option for Iranians to use Google+.  But not all the Iranians use VPN to bypass the governmental internet blockage because it is not free and it is not the most reliable or trustworthy option.

From an Iranian perspective, the government behavior is unacceptable, but expected. But for Google to block its new service for Iranians is shaemeful.  The U.S. government, which is talking about putting huge investment for providing free internet access for Iranians in projects like Internet in suitcase, should first take the easy steps and make sure that basic, widely used services like Google+ are not blocked by sanctions.

Posted By Ali Tayebi

    2 Responses to “Left Outside the Circle: Iranians and Google+”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Ali-jan, lets start with square one, shall we? Iranians can’t even get major commercial OS software without piracy, due to sanctions.

    And although Persian is supposed to be the number three language on the internet, still, those Iranians using the internet on a regular basis– are they truly “ordinary”? Something tells me they are very much underrepresented among the 60% or so Iranians that voted for Ahmadinejad in 2009, out of a voter turnout of 85%.

    Rather than quibbling over social networking software only a relative fringe group would utilize in Iran, how about advocating against the economic, technological and, more specifically, aviation sanctions that are being applied against the Iranian people? I can state with confidence that truly ordinary Iranians care about this 1000% more than some kind of internet novelty like Google+, for chrissakes.

  2. [...] nuevo servicio de Google (con el que espera competir contra Facebook, entre otros) no se puede utilizar en Irán. Empiezan mal. Compartir [...]

Leave a Reply




XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>