October 6, 2022

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Iran restricts WhatsApp, Instagram as Mahsa Amini protests grow

NetBlocks says the outage is the ‘most severe’ since the internet was blocked during 2019’s fuel protests.

Iran has curbed access to social media networks Instagram and WhatsApp amid protests over the death of a woman in police custody, according to residents and internet watchdog NetBlocks.

Last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”, has unleashed a wave of anger over issues including freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions. At least three people have been killed in the rallies, according to a local official.

NetBlocks also reported a “nation-scale loss of connectivity” on Iran’s main mobile telephone provider and another company’s network.

WhatsApp’s servers were disrupted on multiple internet providers, hours after Instagram’s services were blocked, London-based NetBlocks said.

The group’s data shows a near-total disruption to internet service in parts of Kurdistan province in west Iran since Monday, while the capital city of Tehran and other parts of the country have also faced disruptions since Friday, when protests first broke out.

Two residents in Tehran and southern Iran said they could only send text and not pictures on WhatsApp and that Instagram appeared to be completely blocked.

Both platforms are owned by Meta, Facebook’s parent company and are among the few social media networks still operating. NetBlocks said the disruptions were the “most severe” since 2019 when the government shut down the internet for about a week to help stifle fuel protests.

Without internet access, it is harder for people to post videos on social media to generate support for their cause or obtain reliable reports on what is happening.

This month’s unrest has been particularly intense in Amini’s home province of northwestern Kurdistan.

The 22-year-old Amini lived in Saqqez, Kurdistan, and was in Tehran when she was detained for wearing an “improper” headscarf.

The authorities say she had a stroke and a heart attack while she was in a “guidance centre” and was transferred to a nearby hospital, where she died several days later.

Amini’s family has denied claims by Tehran’s police chief that she had not been beaten, had several pre-existing conditions like epilepsy and diabetes, and that she had violated Iran’s mandatory modest-dress rules, which were imposed shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Social media websites such as TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are routinely blocked in parts of the Islamic Republic, which has some of the strictest internet controls in the world. But tech-savvy residents often use virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass the curbs.

Original News : https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/22/iran-restricts-whatsapp-instagram-as-mahsa-amini-protests-grow

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