Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Jan. 3, 2019 - On Wednesday, Iranian authorities declared they will be blocking access to Instagram, the popular social media network with over 24 million users in Iran. The block is the continuation of a trend of crackdowns and censorship on social networks and internet services that followed the eruption of nationwide protests in December 2017.
Instagram is the only social media network that remains uncensored in Iran. In 2018, the Iranian regime blocked access to Telegram, the most popular social media platform in Iran with over 40 million users.
According to Javad Javidnia, deputy for cyberspace affairs at the public prosecutor’s office, the National Cyberspace Council approved steps toward blocking the service. The regime official stated national security reasons as the motive for the block.
The Iranian regime is blocking access to social media while its own officials have full access to networks that have been censored for years.
The increasingly repressive measures toward internet services and social media networks show the Iranian regime’s fear of ongoing protests across the country and its incapability to maintain control over the situation.
Of special concern to Iranian authorities is the role of the PMOI/MEK network and Resistance Units in organizing protests and countering the repressive measures of the regime. Various regime officials recently warned that the PMOI/MEK was using social media to spread news of protests in Iran.
Abdollah Ganji, one of the directors of the IRGC-owned Fars News Agency, said, “The PMOI/MEK members who were relocated from Iraq to Albania are creating content for social media networks.” Ganji also noted that the MEK has had a pivotal role in publishing news about labor strikes and protests and in disclosing the details of the lavish lifestyles of Iranian officials and their children abroad, which is a stark contrast to the extreme poverty that has become the everyday reality of the lives of millions of Iranians.
The social media is also rife with pictures and videos of angry youth and resistance unit members setting fire on banners and posters of Iranian regime icons.
However, the regime’s efforts to contain protests by blocking access to social media is doomed to fail. Various segments of the Iranian population are protesting over their most basic rights and the minimum needs for their daily lives. The regime’s own officials are admitting that the regime’s collapse is very near.
“Presently, if you look at any domain, some of the activists of that domain are in prison, including workers, teachers, truck drivers, women’s rights activists and environmental activists, students, and economic activists,” Faezeh Rafsanjani, former MP and daughter of a former regime president, recently said in an interview with state media. “But in content, the collapse has already happened because wherever you look, the system is not working.”
The regime’s efforts at blocking access to social media might make it harder to broadcast news of the protests, but for the people of Iran, who have nothing to lose but their problems and miseries after four decades of repression and corruption by the ruling regime, protests and demonstrations have become the only way to reclaim their rights. That will remain a reality of Iranian life, with or without social media access.
Furthermore, after two decades of cyber-repression by the regime, the youth of Iran have become more knowledgeable and tech-savvy. For instance, despite the Iranian regime’s efforts to block Telegram, millions of Iranians continue to use the original app by using circumvention tools such as virtual private networks and proxy servers.