After a week of protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16, the Iranian government has decided to cut internet access. In order to circumvent censorship and silence, international devices have been put in place so that the demonstrators continue to express themselves and so that international attention persists.
Since the brutal death of Mahsa Amini, which occurred three days after her arrest by the morality police for “wearing inappropriate clothes, Iran has been rocked by demonstrations that have turned into a popular revolt. Hundreds of images, photos and videos, showing angry demonstrators, women throwing their headscarves into a fire, and riots targeting representatives of power have notably invaded the web.
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Faced with this nascent revolution, the Iranian government has decided to crack down by imposing drastic restrictions on internet access, the main vector, via social networks in particular, of images and the possibility of communication between demonstrators. Essential resources for this protest movement so that international attention persists and calls for mobilization can be relayed.
However, on September 22, Adam Mosseri, boss of Instagram, warned of the blocking of his application. The next day, Ahmad Vahidi, the regime’s interior minister, demanded that Internet access be stopped as long as anti-government demonstrations continued, proof of the importance of the Internet in this revolt.
People in Iran are being cut off from online apps and services. Iranians use apps like Instagram to stay close to their loved ones, access timely and important information and stay connected to the rest of the world. We hope their right to be online will be reinstated quickly.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) September 22, 2022
In recent days, the independent observation company NetBlocks, located “significant blockages” of the networks of large telephone operators as well as “cuts in Internet access” in cities such as Sanandaj and Tehran, cradles of the uprisings. The company also warned of the interrupted access to the WhatsApp social network. NetBlocks confirms that the government would have deprived almost 75% of the population of access to the Internet.
u26a0ufe0f #Iran is now subject to the most severe internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre.
u25b6ufe0f Mobile networks largely shut down (MCI, Rightel, Irancell – partial)
u25b6ufe0f Regional disruptions observed during protests
u25b6ufe0f Instagram, WhatsApp restrictedhttps://t.co/8cCHIJA2Oi
—NetBlocks (@netblocks) September 21, 2022
Accustomed to technological tweaks, Iranians have already suffered, in the past, limitations of access to the Internet. Since 2009, many initiatives have been deployed to circumvent censorship.
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The demonstrators notably use virtual private networks (VPN) which anonymize connections. On Twitter, some Internet users challenge the official accounts of paid VPNs to grant Iranians free access to their servers.
Instead of dealing with satellite internet, which is of no use without a dish and equipment and absolutely useless in Iran. Ask the non-free VPN companies such as; @NordVPN @expressvpn And @ProtonVPN to grant Iran access to their servers. The internet exists, but no effective VPN pic.twitter.com/yZisFrVnNi
— ℘ᴍᴏʜᴀᴍᴍᴀᴅ (@Overthrower_) September 23, 2022
These technological devices make it possible to restore access to applications now blocked by Internet providers. It is also for this reason that many videos continue to circulate on social networks. “The Iranians have tried to help each other by creating proxy connections and ‘old-fashioned’ modem connections, as the authorities cannot cut regular telephone lines”, according to an internet specialist contacted by Here Beirut.
On Twitter, Jonathan Piron, a historian of the Middle East, shared a trick currently used in Iran to pass videos. “Videos of the protests are shared on many Telegram channels,” he tweeted.
Videos of the protests are shared on many Telegram channels. Some popular, general others more thematic. There is therefore a repertoire of protest which is currently being disseminated and which will leave traces pic.twitter.com/uo7tWGKXiN
— Jonathan Piron (@jonathanpiron1) September 20, 2022
Elon Musk and his satellites
For his part, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has promised to activate the service provided by its “Starlink” satellites in order to cover the country with an internet connection.
We took action today to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people, issuing a General License to provide them greater access to digital communications to counter the Iranian government’s censorship.
—Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 23, 2022
The U.S. government has agreed to lift trade bans with Iran so that “tech companies provide the Iranian people with more options for secure external platforms and services,” the U.S. Treasury Department said. in a press release. “Action in progress”, specified on Twitter, the boss of Tesla.
Starlink is not the only service trying to restore Internet access in Iran. The American magazine Fortune also clarified that the Signal application, blocked in the country since January, had asked its users to set up proxy servers in order to circumvent internet access controls.
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Iran: how the demonstrators manage to broadcast images of their revolt despite the internet shutdown
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