While the rest of the world is enjoying YouTube videos, citizens in a handful of countries such as China and Iran have seen the video-sharing site, as well as many other social media networks, blocked.
Instead of depriving the Chinese public of streaming videos, sites like Youku Tudou host videos in place of a YouTube presence. Iran, too, is following China’s lead in creating its own homegrown social media sites to counter the global influence of YouTube and Facebook.
Unlike China’s Youku Tudou, which is a publicly-traded company, Iran’s newest answer to YouTube — Mehr — is directly controlled by the government through the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting unit. ZDNet reports that the government is marketing Mehr towards Farsi-speaking users and will be a tool in promoting Iranian culture.
Not only does Mehr filter out what the government considers inappropriate material but it could probably easily keep tabs of site users. The creation of Mehr could be the latest response to social media’s influence in anti-government protests after the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, which prompted the government to severely restrict social media and Internet use in the country.
Besides Mehr, the government has also planned its own Facebook-like social media site and an email service called Iran Mail. Users would be required to register their home address and social security number to the police — also another way of keeping tabs on its citizens through the Internet.