Internet In Iran Severely Restricted, As Government Curbs Protests Over Fuel Pricing


In the weekend, Iran's internet has been severely slowed down until finally, the country's internet and mobile data were almost off.

According to a report from NetBlocks, the internet observatory confirms the "disruptions with multiple fixed-line and mobile providers in Iran, amid protests against rising fuel prices".

The first city in Iran affected by this restriction, was Mashhad, the city where Imam Reza's shrine resides. There, the slowed connection started at 12:45AM local time. Iran’s largest mobile network operators including MCI, Rightel and IranCell subsequently fell offline as of 6:00PM, after the protests intensified.

The outages were initially partial, before the government decided to expand it, and affecting multiple cities including the capital Tehran.

As a non-governmental organization that monitors cybersecurity and the governance of the internet in countries such as Iraq and Turkey, NetBlocks said that although there are multiple causes of discontent, the protests have been triggered by a surprise 50% rise in gasoline prices across the country.

Participants reportedly chanted slogans against President Hassan Rouhani.

The network disruptions are just a way for the Iranian government to limit the media coverage of the protests. This also come as neighboring Iraq is in the midst of civil upheaval.

Whilst citizens' access to the internet is almost impossible, some Iranian did connect to the internet and shared what was happening in the country via Twitter. One Iranian user posted a video showing Tehran with miles of standstill traffic as streets were closed down.

Iran has a long history of censorship and internet surveillance.

As NetBlocks pointed out, the disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by the cybersecurity organization in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth.

Previously, governments around the world have initiated their own strategies to silence their millions of citizens by limiting their internet access. In 2019 alone, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all enforced a shutdown for various reasons.

Russia has approved a bill that allows its government to shut down internet access, opening ways for harsher censorship for its citizens.

Indonesia too, had restricted internet access during protests. And not to mention, Kashmir, where citizens have been experiencing an internet blackout for more than anyone would think ever necessary.

To gather this kind of information, NetBlocks said that it uses diffscans, which map the entire IP address space of a country in real time.

This way, it can analyze internet outages corresponding to connectivity disruptions. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern, and NetBlocks can use this information to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.