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Iran Launches Odd, Sanitized Alternative to YouTube

Is Iran inching closer to its own domestic intranet? The nation has launched Mehr, a new video-sharing site to replace YouTube, which has been banned there since the disputed 2009 presidential election and uprising.

Mehr, or affection in Farsi, will feature state-uploaded videos alongside approved content provided by users. Though the website was spotty in its early hours, a wire report said it will feature music clips and other homegrown content. No word on whether piano-playing cats will be allowed.

About one-half of Iran’s 75 million people have Internet access. But many popular Western sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail are also blocked by the regime, leading some to use illegal software to circumvent the government restrictions.

Mehr’s launch is the latest step in what the United States calls the Iranian “electronic curtain”—the regime’s attempt to cut off its Web users from the outside world.