Iran is getting good backlash -- and from interesting places, too -- for its block of Google's Gmail service in its ongoing cyberwar against Western influence, reports the AP:
Complaints piled up -- even from email-starved parliament members -- and forced authorities Sunday to double down on their promises to create a parallel Web universe with Tehran as its center.
The strong backlash and the unspecific pledges for an Iran-centric Internet alternative to the Silicon Valley powers and others highlight the two sides of the Islamic Republic's ongoing battles with the Web. It's spurred another technological mobilization that fits neatly into Iran's self-crafted image as the Muslim world's showcase for science, including sending satellites into orbit, claiming advances in cloning and stem cell research and facing down the West over its nuclear program.
But there also are the hard realities of trying to reinvent the Web. Iran's highly educated and widely tech-savvy population is unlikely to warm quickly to potential clunky homegrown browsers or email services. And then there's the potential political and economic fallout of trying to close the tap on familiar sites such as Gmail.
''Some problems have emerged through the blocking of Gmail,'' Hussein Garrousi, a member of a parliamentary committee on industry, was quoted Sunday by the independent Aftab-e Yazd daily. What he apparently meant was that many lawmakers were angry and missing their emails.
The Iranian regime, however, isn't watching its own web surfing well, as its semi-official Fars News Agency lifted a story from The Onion and took the satire seriously:
Apparently unaware of the unwritten rules of both ethical journalism and satire, an Iranian news agency published an edited copy of a report from The Onion on Friday, without crediting the original or acknowledging that it was fiction.
The Fars News Agency, which is close to Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, posted its version of the report on its English-language Web site under the same headline used by The Onion for the original four days earlier: "Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad To Obama."
Although the dateline for the news brief says that the reporting was done in Tehran by Fars, the first sentence is identical to the earlier Onion parody: "According to the results of a Gallup poll released Monday, the overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than U.S. president Barack Obama."