Iran Blocks Mobile Internet, Social Media Apps as Protests Spread

Henrietta Brewer
January 12, 2018

The end result is a sometimes haphazard system that can still have devastating effects on any service the regime sees as a threat. Iranian authorities are wary of social media, which has fuelled prior protests, and past year declared their intent to eventually restrict the country's internet users to a national intranet.

Motherboard reported that some Iranians have now resorted to using VPNs to circumvent the government's suppression of information. After years of diplomatic pressure, USA companies face significant regulations on any technology exported to Iran, and it's often unclear how those rules extend to cloud services like AppEngine. "We consider freedom of speech an undeniable human right, and would rather get blocked in a country by its authorities than limit a peaceful expression of alternative opinions".

"Restricting people's access to the internet and software programs and apps, including Telegram and Instagram, by officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran is condemned and counted as "suppression of free flow of information, as well as people's right to be informed", RSF said Sunday, December 31, in a post on its Facebook account".

On Saturday, Telegram suspended the popular Amad News channel for violating the service's policy against calls to violence.

Since the 2009 protests were ruthlessly put down by the Revolutionary Guards, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of pressing for change from the streets.

Telegram, which allows both individual messages between users, and for channels to broadcast simultaneously to millions of subscribers, is particularly popular in Iran, where it says it has over 20 million users. The restrictions on Instagram and Telegram are imposed to maintain tranquillity, said, President Hassan Rouhani. He notes the dominance of Mashad by religious hardliners who sought to take advantage of the population's legitimate economic grievances to score points against the Rouhani government, but have lost control of them because of economic grievances.

After then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009, protesters used Twitter to help coordinate and organize the Green Movement, where millions took part after accusations of widespread election fraud.

Government officials have accused social media platforms of fueling dissent and emboldening protesters. Ahmadinejad has since joined the app.

But as the demonstrations grew, Mubarak's government pulled the plug on Twitter, cutting off thousands of Egyptian users from accessing the social media site.

The decision brought sharp criticism from Iranian cyber-activists, who described Telegram's actions as "capitulation" to state censorship. It's very hard for social media platforms and messaging apps to operate under tight regulations in Iran. But other messaging apps give users options. The app works by creating its own network outside the internet, relying on a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi link that exists between two phones.

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