December 8, 2022

As protests continue over the death of a woman in police custody in Iran, access to Instagram and WhatsApp has been blocked.

Meanwhile, there were major internet outages across the country, with mobile phone services also disrupted.

Last week, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after the country’s morality police arrested her for ‘inappropriate clothing’ – a headscarf she was believed to be wearing inappropriately. The authorities deny any wrongdoing, claiming that she suffered from sudden heart failure. But since then, a wave of protests has erupted across the country, with at least eight people killed.

Now, according to Data from NetBlocksauthorities responded with a series of internet restrictions — the most severe, the company says, since the November 2019 massacre that left more than 300 people dead.

Twitter and Facebook have long been banned in Iran. However, Instagram and WhatsApp are now restricted to all users registered with an Iranian phone number +98, across all major network operators. Meanwhile, mobile phone networks, including MCI, Rightel and Irancell, have been largely shut down.

“Users have also reported outages or severe slowdowns in internet service in multiple cities since the first disruption was recorded on Friday, September 16, 2022,” NetBlocks says.

“Network disruptions are likely to severely limit the public’s ability to express political discontent and communicate freely.”

Because traffic is disrupted at the network layer, it is generally not possible to bypass blocking using circumvention software or VPNs.

Iran is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to internal lockdowns, blocking internet access at least five times during 2021.

In a joint statement, groups including Access Now, PEN America and Reporters Without Borders called on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to demand that Iran reverse its moves.

“We also call on the Iranian government to enact policies, practices and legislation in line with international human rights law that recognizes the essential role that the Internet plays in the exercise of human rights, and to protect against shutdowns,” they wrote.

“In the past, the Iranian government has shown a similar pattern of preferential treatment and tiered access, whereby institutions including banks, news agencies, police stations and government offices have remained connected to the Internet, while ordinary people in Iran, who use ISPs themselves, have been disconnected. The authorities should To do everything in its power to ensure internet access for everyone in Iran.”

The shutdowns come as pro-government websites suffer outages of their own. The group Anonymous (Hactivist) said it carried out attacks on two government websites and Iran’s state TV channel, among others.

“The Iranian people are not alone. Anonymous will not keep the Iranian government alive on the internet as long as they are fighting dictatorship and murderous police,” reads the Video statement.

“You have censored your people’s social media and other means of communication to suppress knowledge of your crimes against them. Now you will shut down Anonymous, and your people will bring you down from power.”

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