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As Google Reader goes offline, those living under censorship lose vital news source

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Iranian Ayatollah flickr
Iranian Ayatollah flickr

For many of us, Google Reader fading into oblivion means we'll need to hunt down another source for our daily news fix. For others, though, the loss is far more significant. As Quartz is today pointing out, Reader has become a critical resource for those living under oppressive regimes in recent years — particularly in Iran. Despite the stranglehold Iran has put on web access with its heavy-handed censorship tactics, Reader has continually provided its residents with uncensored news and views from the outside world. That's because the headlines, snippets, and other items in a Google Reader feed are retrieved from Google's own servers located far away from the regime's jurisdiction.

The search company's colossal influence has thus far kept Reader alive, whereas it's been far easier for Iran to eliminate similar services by merely cutting off access. Doing that with Reader isn't so easy, as it would also send Google's other popular services offline. Iran has pursued the all-or-nothing blockade before, but eventually backed away from the aggressive approach each time. Reader is also considered a vital tool in China, where Google's RSS aggregator has somehow evaded being filtered by the "Great Firewall." For these people, a Digg clone simply won't do the trick.