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Tehran’s new plan to clamp down on internet access in Iran

Internet in Iran
Internet in Iran

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, November 27, 2019—After carrying out a week-long shutdown on internet services in Iran, mobile internet remains extremely limited. Meanwhile, the regime plans to further limit internet access in Iran in fear of the eruption of more popular protests.

The Iranian regime’s communications ministry has told all subsets of the executive branch to create an Excel spreadsheet of “all foreign websites and online services” they need and send it to the National Information Network (NIN) administration. NIN is a state-run intranet that will have very limited interface with global online services that are beyond the Iranian regime’s control.

This information will be used to create a "white list," which means Iranian organizations will only have access to the sites and services included in the list. All other websites will be inaccessible.

In this regard, the state-run Ruydad 24 website wrote, “This move means the people’s access to global internet will be totally cut off. The public’s access to the internet will be limited to the websites that the enforcers consider ‘white.’ Other websites will be off-limits to the people.”

Under the circumstances that accessible sites will be whitelisted, the people will not be able to use proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPN) to circumvent internet censorship.

Ruydad 24 writes, “As you witnessed during the first days of internet shutdown, with the permanent launch of NIN and the blocking of the global internet, all circumvention tools and VPNs will also be disabled. When this plan is implemented, there will be no way to access Telegram, Facebook and international services.”

This increased clampdown on internet access is proof that the regime has not been able to contain the anger of the people and is still afraid of the eruption of further protests. The increased restrictions on internet access come as Iran has seen some of the most intense protests in the 40-year history of the mullahs’ rule.

During the past 13 days, protests that were triggered with the sudden increase in gasoline prices spread to more than 170 cities. Protesters across Iran made it clear in their demonstrations that they are fed up with this regime and want regime change. In many locations, clashes ensued between demonstrators and government forces. So far, the MEK has been able to document 450 people murdered by security forces. Some 4,000 have been injured and the regime has arrested more than 10,000 people.

The regime’s censorship of internet services is aimed at preventing news of protests and the human rights abuses of security forces to reach the world. It also wants to control communications to prevent protesters from organizing and communicating with the Iranian opposition.

Internet censorship is nothing new in Iran. Since the 2009 uprisings, popular social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been banned in Iran. But the previous censorship was based on a “black list” approach, which means authorities specify which websites are banned instead of defining a list of permitted websites. This allowed users to circumvent the bans by using proxy servers or VPNs. The regime would then have to block the VPNs, after which users would move on to other tools. The white-list approach will make it even more difficult for users to access internet services.

The regime has been planning the so-called “national internet” since 2005. The idea is to build domestic clones of foreign websites and online services and force Iranians to use them. This will give the regime better control and visibility into the activities of Iranian users and will set the stage for a massive online surveillance regime.

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