By Zak Doffman
Google has acted against two Iranian state broadcasters, Press TV and Hispan TV, blocking access “without warning” to their YouTube and Gmail accounts.
According to Israeli press reports, this came as a response to the publication of incendiary, false accusations that Israel had been conducting medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners. Google declined to comment on the reason for the blocks, but there has been an intensifying crackdown on Iranian social media in light of the U.S. government tightening restrictions on the country.
The article, published by Iran’s Spanish-language service Hispan TV and targeting outlets in Latin America, claimed that “Palestinians held in Israeli jails are being used as guinea pigs in new medical trials,” citing “reports that the health ministry (of Israel) granted licenses to several international companies to carry out medical tests on Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons without their knowledge.”
Hispan TV described the block as the “price of being the voice of the oppressed,” and claimed that “Google blocked once again and without warning the access of Hispan TV and Press TV to their accounts with the pretext and false accusation that the content of these international channels violates its rules.”
Press TV reported that Google blocked their access “without prior notice, citing “violation of policies,” and that they received a message saying “your Google Account was disabled and can’t be restored because it was used in a way that violates Google’s policies.” Although their YouTube channels remain open, no new content can be published. Press TV claimed that Google “has refused to offer an explanation for shutting down the accounts,” and that they have not violated any of Google’s listed policies.
Not for the first time
Both Press TV and Hispan TV have been censured before by Google. “[Our] original YouTube channel was established in December 2009 and closed in September 2013,” Press TV said. “A new channel was then opened, but it was shut almost two months later. Another channel was opened, but it suffered the same fate after five months. The fourth channel, however, remained active with over 270,000 subscribers until it was closed today.”
For their part, Hispan TV claimed that “in August 2018, Google blocked the access of Hispan TV to its YouTube channel and Google Plus, and as a result, the Hispan TV, Hispan TV Programas, Hispan TV Documentales and Hispan TV Films and Series accounts were closed.”
The geopolitics intensifies
Earlier this month, the U.S. took the historic decision to designate part of the Iranian government a terrorist organization. “The State Department intends to designate as a Foreign Terrorist Organization the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in its entirety, including the Qods Force.”
Israel and Suadi Arabia both backed the U.S. move, prompting Iran to warn of “dangerous consequences” from the “major threat to regional and international peace and security and a blatant violation of the compelling rules of international law and the United Nations Charter.” The country’s parliament has now approved a bill labeling “all U.S. military forces as terrorists.”
Beyond straightforward military threats and its continuing support for international terrorism, Iran has also become a more active player in global cyber attacks. With the U.K. admitting major attacks from Iranian-sponsored ‘bad actors’ against major U.K. targets towards the end of 2018. The attack is believed to have impacted private sector companies, public bodies and politicians.
Facebook recently shut down multiple Iranian-sponsored groups and accounts that have been accused of spreading fake news in multiple countries. The company explained that “the pages routinely amplified Iranian state narratives, targeting Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia, especially for their roles in the Middle East, and focusing on the Yemen and Palestine conflicts. The pages often shared articles from websites which reproduced, verbatim, content from Iranian state or state-allied outlets, such as Press TV.” Facebook also shut down the Instagram pages of senior figures within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, in the wake of intensifying U.S. sanctions against the regime in Tehran.
It is little surprise, then, that Google has now acted as well.