Iran: How Iran is turning off the Internet tap for its citizens – Politics

Iran: How Iran is turning off the Internet tap for its citizens - Politics

Amin Sabeti is full of hope right now. “Regardless of the outcome of the protests against the regime, they will change the country,” says the IT security expert. He cannot imagine that people’s rebellion will peter out like it did in 2019. At that time it was about high petrol prices, today it is about fundamental values: about freedom, about women’s rights, about life. And the demonstrators, he says, are showing remarkable perseverance.

Sabeti follows the situation from London, where he tries to support his compatriots in the digital fight against the mullahs’ regime. Because since the 22-year-old arrested two weeks ago because of an allegedly too loose-fitting headscarf Mahsa Amini died from serious injuries while in prison, there are not only demonstrations again. The power apparatus is also trying again to cut off the people from the Internet.

Sabeti monitors Iranian hacker groups and government disinformation campaigns, and provides information on ways to circumvent internet censorship. Although today he hardly has to enlighten anyone anymore. Even his parents’ generation – Sabeti is approaching 40 – knows how to shrug off Iranian internet spies and bypass blocks using a virtual private network (VPN) that gives you a new IP address. The experiences of the past few years have made the Iranians network experts.

But this knowledge is of no use if the regime shuts down the Internet altogether. Sabeti compares it to a faucet. The faucet with Internet from home WiFi providers was throttled so much that it has only been trickling for days. Regionally, the faucet is temporarily turned off almost completely, for example in the province of Kurdistan, from which the killed Amini came. In addition, those in power block access to mobile communications every afternoon – VPN then no longer helps. This is also confirmed by Alp Toker from the organization Netblocks, which monitors Internet outages all over the world: “In Iran there is a kind of Internet curfew for mobile communications”, from around 4 p.m. to midnight, writes Toker der Süddeutsche Zeitung. The network was only open again the next morning.

Because around 4 p.m. people begin to gather in the squares to protest against the President Ebrahim Raisi and to demonstrate the rest of the regime. If the number of protesters increases, if there are riots on the streets, people are injured and killed – then no pictures will be sent, at least not until the next day. This takes some of the impact out of the demonstrations.

However, Sabeti does not believe that the internet plays a major role in the organization of the protests. The marches would come about without any help from the internet: organically, decentrally. The big US networks of the meta group, which are also popular in Iran, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook, but also Twitter, served more to show the world what is happening in Iran, says Sabeti. Now activists and users are accusing Meta of collaborating with the mullahs’ regime because Whatsapp and Instagram are in Iran have been severely restricted. Protest posts by users from other countries are said to have been removed from Instagram.

Yet Meta told ARD in writing: “We do not restrict access to our apps in Iran, nor do we censor them at the behest of the Iranian government, the voices of others.” The focus is “on ensuring that as many people as possible can use our services”.

The general internet outages weigh more heavily than the blocking of individual networks, which can often be circumvented. In social networks, many users recently asked Elon Musk should provide reliable satellite internet with his company Starlink, as he has already done in Ukraine. The Tesla boss and space entrepreneur finally announced a few days ago that he would release the Starlink Internet for use in Iran. A special license, which he needs because of the sanctions against Tehran, the US Treasury Department has already granted it and other tech companies. Sabeti does not fear that Starlink users could be identified via the satellite dish required for this on the roof. “It’s banned, but ten million Iranians still have satellite television.” Starlink users would not be recognized by the key.

But first routers and satellite dishes would have to be smuggled into the country. That wouldn’t really be a problem via Pakistan or Iraqi Kurdistan, says Sabeti, but it could take a while. The protesters risking freedom and lives on the streets these days will see little benefit from Starlink.

Source link