It's been known for a while now that Iran was planning on launching a national private Internet. It would be a private network that keeps citizens' access to the outside world at a bare minimum while blocking incoming connections. The country took its first step towards a national Internet today by blocking Google's search engine and Gmail.
Reuters is reporting that a government deputy minister took to state television on Sunday evening to announce the blocking. He only said that Google and Gmail would be blocked so it's unclear if any other services Google provides will also be filtered. The country has taken issue with Google Maps in the past so it wouldn't be out of the question for the country to block that too.
The Iranian government claims to have good reason to start up their own private Internet. The country has been attacked numerous times in the past by devastating malware. The Stuxnet and Flame viruses were brought to light in June as a joint effort between the U.S. and Israel to set back Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Despite the state's reasoning, many Iranians fear the move is intended to crack down on dissent. The Internet played an integral part in letting the world know what was happening during the massive protests of 2009. If Iran went onto its own Internet, it would effectively stop all communications between Iranians and the outside world. The country would become another North Korea.
The implementation of Iran's own Internet is still a ways off. The blocking of Google is just a preliminary move at this moment. Unfortunately, it could soon turn into a mass blockade of all Western media and anything else a few people at the top deem inappropriate for the citizenry.