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Aug 28, 1:47 PM EDT

Iran inaugurates its homegrown National Network of Data

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's official news agency is reporting the country has inaugurated first phase of its "National Network of Data."

Iran has long sought to create its own national Intranet. The Sunday report by IRNA says the network aims to promote online Islamic content, and encourage less dependency on the Internet while providing safer data transfer and protection against cyber-attacks.

It said the second phase of the decade-old project will go online in February 2017 and it will be completed in August 2017.

Critics say the network may eventually lead to more restrictions for users, but officials deny that.

Earlier in August, Iran targeted hundreds of social media users following a May crackdown on women modeling on Instagram.

Users inside Iran often access sites like Twitter and Facebook though proxies and VPNs.

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