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Iran Says Home-Grown Search Engine Project Has Failed

Iran's Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi says the homegrown search engine project has failed.

Iran's Telecommunications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi on Wednesday admitted that "as shown by the incidents in November" the home-grown search engine cannot has failed and cannot meet the expectations.

In November 2019 anti-regime protests broke out across the country when the government raised fuel prices three-fold. During the protests, authorities shut down the global web access for several days to prevent the protesters from sending images and videos abroad showing violence by security forces.

In his interview with the state-run television (IRIB) on Wednesday night, Azari-Jahromi said the ministry is trying to complete the home-grown search engine and messaging systems before September next year.

According to Azari-Jahromi 40 percent of the service components of the network have been established, 47 percent need completion and 17 percent need to be created.

The Islamic Republic has for many years for security and political reasons sought to create an intranet to isolate Iranian users from the global web. Many foreign websites and messaging systems such as Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Iran and can only be accessed through proxy servers.

Last week Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei criticized the government for not putting enough effort to complete and operationalize the intranet dubbed as the National Information Network NIN). He also said imports of "an American-made smartphone" – the iPhone – "which is not necessary" should stop.

Khamenei claimed that the Iranian social media users "are being directed and managed from the outside" and said, "people should not be left without any support".

On August 16 forty hardliner lawmakers proposed a double-urgency motion to "regulate social messaging platforms" which demands that all "domestic and foreign social messaging platforms" must regulate their activities according to Iranian laws and criminalizes the use of proxy servers to access to these services.

Many Iranian officials, including the Supreme Leader himself, have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Khamenei Tweets in several languages including English, Arabic, French, Spanish and even Hindi.