Iran’s Internet blackout is destroying its own economy

When the internet is off, Platform blocking and content filtering become Leverage is more and more popular for authoritarian control around the world, Iran presented a particularly dramatic case study on the economic and humanitarian impact number of lost connections.

In response to government protests and protests, the Iranian regime conducted a large-scale shutdown in September has significantly restricted all digital media in the country. And Tehran is running campaigns to slow down Meta’s ability to connect and access popular services, including Instagram. However, the removal of disruption is beginning to reveal the true economic toll of this brutal technique, according to a new assessment by the US State Department.

Iran has been an isolated and heavily sanctioned country, yet the government has repeatedly imposed extensive digital restrictions and shutdowns, including notable initiatives in 2017. and 2019. The cumulative impact of these crackdowns has affected the rights of more than 80 million people living in Iran and disrupted every aspect of Iranian society, including commerce.

“This is another example, an important example, in which officials show themselves the most,” said Reza Ghazinouri, a strategic advisor with the San Francisco-based civil liberties and human rights group. how to choose private interests over public interests”. for Iran. “Over the years, millions of Iranians have fallen below the poverty line, and further restricting access to platforms like Instagram only adds to that number. And this disproportionately affects women. Sixty-four percent of Iranian businesses on Instagram are owned by women.”

From communicating with customers to processing transactions, businesses rely on digital platforms in a variety of ways, but digital disruption has an impact on businesses of all sizes. Many Iranian trade associations have said in recent weeks that their member companies are reporting huge losses. And some reports have establish that the recent outage affected hundreds of thousands of small businesses.

Rob Malley, the US special envoy to Iran, told WIRED in a written comment: “This censorship shows the extent to which the Iranian leadership fears about what might happen when the people of Iran are concerned. they can freely communicate with each other and with the outside world.

The protest movement in Iran has gained momentum since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s “ethical police” while in custody for allegedly violating rules on teaming. head scarf. Since SeptemberMore than 18,000 people have been arrested by Iranian law enforcement in connection with the protests, and nearly 500 people, including nearly 60 children, have been killed at the protests as officials increasingly use harsher force against the protesters.

Analysis of the recent closure of a group of digital rights groups, published in late November and cited by the State Department, shows that the Iranian government has deployed an increasingly wide range of technical capabilities to make it more difficult for citizens to bypass digital restrictions. For example, the government has expanded the ability to intercept encrypted connections to defeat attempts to mask users’ browsing activity. Officials have also continued to expand their blocks on the Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store, and browser extension stores, making it harder for Iranians to download firewall bypass tools. The findings also indicate that there is a cumulative and effective effect that increases over time as governments increase censorship, content filtering, and blocking with intermittent and large-scale outages.

It is difficult to assess the exact economic impact of a digital blackout and separate it from other factors such as international sanctions. However, based on escalating internet shutdown tactics and its ability to withstand damage caused by itself, the State Department believes that the Iranian regime feels more threatened by the recent protest movement than it is. with previous waves of public protest.

Earlier this month, in a high-profile concession to protesters, the Iranian government said it had shut down the “moral police” that enforce restrictive laws, especially the strict regulation of Muslim dress. for women. However, the law is still in effect and it is unclear to what extent this move will actually impact enforcement in practice.

A State Department spokesperson told WIRED in a statement that the White House is “committed to helping the Iranian people exercise their right to freedom of expression and freedom to access information over the internet.”


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