Amid widespread protests in the country, the Iran authorities have blocked access to two major social media networks.
Iran’s government has done this in order to close public access to the internet by protestors who are using social networks to organize the demonstrations.
In some parts of the country, internet services have been completely blocked.
Specifically, Iran authorities have blocked access to Instagram and Telegram, popular messaging apps used by citizens across the country.
The sites have been blocked as the Iran Interior Minister made claims that such social networking sites are increasing the violence in the country.
It is also rumored that Iran is blocking internet access through mobile devices as well in many cities as part of the censorship strategy.
All these tactics to employ internet censorship measures on social media shows that the government is nervous about losing its control over the people.
According to the government, internet censorship on social networks is a temporary measure for thwarting protests.
The idea behind the block seems to be to temporarily stop the coordination of demonstrations without implementing a complete blanket ban.
The real purpose of blocking access to Instagram is because the public is using the platform to document its demonstrations.
It is very obvious that the Iran government does not want to publicize information about the intensity or the amount of demonstrations that are ongoing at the moment.
Iran had earlier blocked VPNs in addition to Instagram, and it will continue with these internet censorship measures as long as authorities see them as a threat to the government’s control of citizens.
Block on Telegram
Though the government maintains that the block on social media channels has been imposed to maintain peace, Telegram Founder Pavel Durov refused to shut down his channel, as it is one that is allowing peaceful protests.
In late 2017, Telegram first removed opposition channels that contained propaganda for violence. However, Durov has refused to close other channels that are displaying peaceful content.
According to him, freedom of speech is an important human right and the site would prefer to be blocked by the government than lay control on a peaceful expression of opinion.
The Protests & Internet Censorship
The political demonstrations in Iran were initially due to public concern over economic problems like inflation.
However, they are slowly covering other grounds as well, mainly becoming a widespread protest against the government’s rule and its use of internet censorship to limit citizens’ dissent.
Many people had posted videos of such demonstrators who were tearing down billboard photos of Iran Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Thousands were in the streets blocking traffic and shouting slogans against the present regime, with many students throwing stones at the police at Tehran University and voicing slogans such as “Death to Dictator,” referring to the country’s leader.
Documenting Protests via Social Networks
There are more than 47 million people in Iran using smartphones and social media for such activism.
Telegram and Instagram are among the most popular social network platformsin Iran.
The government has also blocked sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as an internet censorship strategy.
Use of VPNs
The Iranian government has been using internet censorship and social media blocking as a major anti-protesting strategy for some time.
They have also been suppressing sites criticizing the government.
However, people have started using alternatives like VPNs to bypass such blocks.
Doing this, they are able to bypass internet restrictions and evade online tracking to their identity.
The younger generation of Iranians, a very vocal proponent of internet freedom in their country, has found VPNs to be a key tool to disseminate information.
As such, the government will find it difficult to identify and block thousands of websites from being accessed with VPNs. Many citizens are also creating their own proxy servers.
Resources and how-to guides are available on Twitter regarding how to set up proxy servers so that the Iranian government does not recognize them.
Some sites are asking Iranians to make use of Tor in order to disguise their IDs and bypass the internet censorship filters imposed by their government.