Is Internet Blocked in Iran?

Is internet blocked in iran

The Iranian government has been limiting access to the internet as anti-regime protests have continued. The regime is targeting WhatsApp, Instagram and other apps used by millions of people for their ability to share photos and videos that document the sweeping protests, which have seen hundreds of lives lost.

It’s a strategy that governments around the world use to suppress dissent and quell unrest. The World Economic Forum estimates that a total of 32 countries censored their citizens’ online access last year.

Some of those restrictions, including blocking websites and mobile apps, were meant to deter people from taking part in street demonstrations. Others, like preventing people from using foreign social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, were designed to shut down the free flow of information on those platforms and to keep Iranians from seeing what their opponents are doing in the outside world.

This year, the government has gotten more targeted and sophisticated in its efforts to control the internet, according to Alp Toker, director of international technology platform NetBlocks. It’s cutting links, rendering VPN and proxy servers inaccessible and even throttling mobile data.

To help counter the government’s censorship measures, human rights activists and technology companies are working to scale the walls of internet censorship. One group is trying a new approach that involves Tor, which allows users to connect to other computers on the internet, in order to bypass censorship blocks. Another is a project called “data casting,” which uses regular satellite TV to send data that can be unpacked and downloaded into a computer.

The government is also pursuing a censorship bill that would criminalize production and distribution of censorship circumvention tools. Iran’s hardliner parliament has been discussing the legislation since January.

Activists and tech experts say that the Iranian government is using a model that’s similar to China, which is known for its strict online censorship laws. The censorship rules in Iran, like those in China, require government approval for content on social media and other websites, so the state can track what’s being shared, as well as block any content that could be perceived as harmful or offensive to the Islamic Republic.

There are a number of censorship circumvention tools that people can use to access blocked sites, and many of them are free to download. For instance, a tool called Tor Snowflake allows people outside of Iran to connect their computers with those inside the country, giving them the chance to visit websites that are blocked.

But even the most effective censorship circumvention tools can fail when a country’s regime is particularly restrictive, which is why it’s important to take steps to scale the walls of censorship. Some groups are mobilizing to do just that, by bringing more people into the tech community and creating tools that can scale these barriers.

For example, an entrepreneur who works with the tech community in Iran is creating a system that uses Tor Snowflake to let those in the country access blocked sites from other parts of the world, while allowing them to surf the internet without being tracked or monitored.