The Iranian video-sharing website, http://www.mehr.ir, will promote Iranian and Islamic culture and artists. It is not clear how heavily it will be censored. Mehr means affection in Farsi.
Iran’s YouTube clone is backed by the state-backed Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
“From now on, people can upload their short films on the website and access (IRIB) produced material,” IRIB deputy chief Lotfollah Siahkali said on the broadcaster’s website.
YouTube has been banned in Iran since mid-2009, when it was widely used to dispute electoral results that put president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back in power.
But many Iranians still access the Google-owned website by bypassing Iranian Internet filters.
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Iran already has a popular video website, Aparat, run by the company behind Farsi-language social network Cloob. However, Mehr is the country’s first state-backed video-sharing website.
In September Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on the West to show respect for Muslims by blocking “The Innocence of Muslims,” a film distributed on YouTube that depicts the prophet Mohammed as a sexual predator. That film remains available on YouTube despite worldwide protests.
Google has not commented on Mehr’s launch.