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Supreme Council of Cyberspace, new online oversight agency, to launch in Iran

New unit looks to track online activity even more closely in Iran.

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An Iranian cleric works on his laptop with a copy of the Koran next to him at a time of disrupted Internet service in Iran, where authorities often cut service ahead of key political events, such as national elections. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran's supreme leader announced the creation of a Supreme Council of Cyberspace meant to "protect" Iranians from online dangers, as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the effort in a decree released today, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The move comes as part of a broader effort by the the country's Islamic authorities to control online activity there, with Khamenei noting the "important impact of the Internet on individual and social life" in his decree, vowing that the new agency will "prevent damages caused by it," according to UPI

The Ayatollah tasked the nation's president, currently Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with supervising the new unit alongside other powerful figures in Iran's military, security, and political circles.

Meanwhile, Iran is believed to be developing new, domestically-built websites intended to circumvene major sites like Google, said AP

Azerbaijan's Trend News cited Iranian Communications Minister Reza Taghipour as saying Iranians will need the planned Google-like sites for their own protection, describing the Internet as basically unsafe. 

Such efforts show a growing anxiety on the part of Iran's leaders to control online activity in a hugely young country -- nearly two-thirds of the population are under 30 years old, many of them skilled at cirumventing the government's intermittent attempts to block popular sites like Facebook and Gmail. 

Officials have also said they plan to launch an Iranian-built national search engine, "Yahaq" ("Oh Lord"), later this year, but it remains unclear when and how the new platform will function, said AP

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120307/supreme-council-cyberspace-new-online-oversight-agency-lau