Iranian officials spoke out Tuesday to insist that reports that the country is killing access to the Internet are grossly exaggerated. Several news outlets had picked up on a report from Reporters Without Borders — a report that contains the information that "Iran has announced the launch of a national Internet."
The idea that the country planned to confine its web-users to an intranet that would be isolated from the World Wide Web set off reports that Iran's regime might be ready to enact its "bizarre plan to create its own 'clean' Internet" by August 2012, according to a post over at Ars Technica (which has since been updated to reflect the latest developments).
Later in the day Tuesday, a story by Agence France-Presse described how Iranian officials were seeking to set the record straight — in part by suggesting that the story was a hoax.
"The reports derived from a supposed interview with Communications Minister Reza Taghipour published on April 1 that was in fact a hoax, the ministry said in the statement on its own site www.ict.gov.ir — which itself was not accessible outside of Iran," says AFP.
If that sentence leaves your mind churning: Yes, it seems possible that the Iranian government might be using the old trick — inadvertently or no — of yelling "April Fools!" as an attempt to remedy an awkward situation.
That might sound silly, but the underlying issue is a serious one. The Reporters Without Borders study provides other details about why it awarded Iran and other nations the title of "Enemies of the Internet." One other interesting tidbit: Iran is considering launching its own search engine, as well.
As the AFP story says, Iran has tens of millions of web users, and it has previously discussed plans to create a "'national information network'... Taghipour said in early April that the plan would be fully implemented by March 2013."
What remains unclear is whether such a network would replace the Internet in Iran, or if it would operate in parallel.
Also Tuesday, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defied the threat of international sanctions that seek to punish Iran for pursuing its nuclear program.
"We have as much hard currency as we need and the country will manage well, even if we don't sell a single barrel of oil for two or three years," he said, according to the AP. The president's speech was broadcast on Iranian state TV.
So, just to be clear: Iran is not yet ready to isolate its web browsers from the world. But its economy is ready to be cut off from the oil business, according to today's news.