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Iran Blocks YouTube, N.Y. Times

Iran is also planning to boost surveillance of "harmful" text messages, said the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders.

Iran blocked access to video-sharing Web site YouTube and the New York Times online, further escalating the country's Internet censorship, a press freedom organization said Tuesday.

The latest actions are part of the country's overall strategy of creating a "digital border to stop culture and news coming from abroad -- a vision of the Net which is worrying for the country's future," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.

Two months ago, Iranian officials banned Internet access at speeds higher than 128KB per second, saying at the time it was to prevent Web content from undermining Islamic culture among young people. The government has blocked the Kurdish version of Wikipedia for several months, and the English version from Dec. 1-3, Reporters Without Borders said. The online encyclopedia is often seen as a threat by governments that control Internet access for political reasons.

Iran is moving closer to the heavy censorship of the Web practiced by China, the free press nonprofit said. Both countries are on the group's list of 13 countries considered "enemies of the Internet." Iran and China have objected to their inclusion, saying they are only filtering illegal and immoral content. Other countries include Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Vafa Ghafaryan, head of Iran's Agency for the Development of Information Technology, told the country's official news agency ISNA that the government planned to boost surveillance of "harmful" text messages, Reporters Without Borders said.

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