In the wake of the death of a young woman in police custody, the government has imposed a number of internet and digital service cuts and blocks. With most of Iran's citizens impacted, people around the world have been searching for ways to get Iranians online. Complicated approaches come with them.
Iranians have faced escalating internet restrictions for years and have some ways to circumvent them, like using a virtual private network. The measure has evolved from a dark horse tactic to a well known strategy as repressive governments deploy it as a means of controlling citizens. There is no easy, affordable, or broad way to restore digital access to people who are being blocked.
There are two goals in the efforts to restore digital lifelines. The infrastructure the regime has spent a lot of money on is causing internet and mobile data to go down. Satellite services can be used to establish alternative connections. The government is blocking access to certain digital services even when people can use the internet. People inside and outside of the country are trying to provide technical workarounds so Iranians can maintain access to important services that would otherwise be unavailable. Progress is slow because of the government's control, the logistical hurdles, and the global sanctions against Iran.
The director of internet security and digital rights at the Miaan Group says that this time is different because they are going after every possible channel of communication. This is something that we had never heard of. I have been working on the internet of Iran for more than a decade and I have never seen the Iranian government go after every communication channel.
Yahoo Mail and Mail.com are not allowed to be used. It's possible that Gmail, iCloud, and ProtonMail are not accessible. The government is cutting access to many video games because of their chat functions, as well as blocking messaging platforms likeWhatsApp andInstagram.
The United States Treasury Department issued a general license last week to allow US tech companies to provide technology to Iran if they can find a way to do so.
While Iran's government is cutting off its people's access to the global internet, the United States is taking action to support the free flow of information and access to fact based information to the Iranian people. The updated guidance will allow technology companies to give the Iranians more options.