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Internet Censorship; Iran's Desperate Attempt to Gain Back Control

Parisa Ghatta


Photo of a computer mouse against a black screen
Photo: Liam Briese/Unsplash

Following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Iran, the country has entered a period of internet censorship and blackout. Internet censorship is not a new occurrence; many governments have resorted to internet blackouts and censorship over the last few decades to handle uprisings, protests, and riots. Internet censorship is not only a violation of human rights; it is a desperate attempt by the ruling government to regain control. This piece will make the case that authoritarian regimes typically resort to internet censorship when protests are working. If the internet is censored, that means the dictators are scared.  


On September 16th, the government of Iran imposed an internet blackout for at least sixteen hours on the same day that Mahsa Amini passed away (Newsroom, 2022). Following the death of Amini, many Iranian women used social media platforms to post videos and photos cutting their hair and taking off their headscarves to protest the actions of Iran's Morality police. As a response, the government shut down all major cellular networks and access to social media, including Instagram and WhatsApp. These internet restrictions are a direct violation of human rights. When governments censor the internet, they are restricting freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech. They are silencing the voices of their citizens by preventing them from sharing their thoughts and feelings on public platforms. 


Unfortunately it is not surprising to see authorian regimes go to extreme measures to keep their power as power is the only thing they have. When authoritarian governments lose control over the public, they fear that protestors will gain momentum, garner support, and receive media attention, which is exactly what happened after Amini’s death. It is much easier to control protests without international backlash, pressure, and the spotlight. For the Iranian regime, social media is a threat. It is a threat to their power and a threat to their control. Leaked videos and pictures from the protest have resulted in people across the globe showing their support to the women of Iran. It evolved from an ‘Iran issue’ to a women's rights issue. Ltfollah Sianhkali, an Iranian lawmaker, told the press, “social media are the biggest venue for the enemies to further their conspiracies, thus, restrictions will continue if the protests continue” (Newsroom, 2022, para 4). Many governments see the need to restrict the internet out of security interests. This occurred during the Arab Spring in Egypt when the government shutdown the internet for five days, as well as in Libya for around a week. Both governments used security to justify  their decisions. When governments use security as a justification for internet censorship, it demonstrates that their real goal is to impose measures that save face, diminish the chances of their protestors obtaining more strength, and ultimately, save themselves.


Internet shutdowns do not restore order, they do not protect rights, and they do not keep people safe. Internet shutdowns keep those inside the country and those watching from outside in the dark to death tolls and recent developments in different regions. Internet censorship is a desperate strategy initiated by governments when uprisings threaten their power. It is an extreme measure that shows to the rest of the world the lengths a government is willing to go no matter how unjust they may be. The government of Iran fears the power the people hold, especially when that power is joined with the internet, which has already spread its message to millions around the world. I do not see an end to the use of internet censorship; we saw them being employed in Egypt and Libya during the Arab Spring. We are seeing it now in Iran, and unfortunately, we will most likely see them in the future. Regardless, it is clear to me that the Iranian leaders are scared, and in a frantic attempt to gain back control, they restrict the one thing they can; the internet.


 

Reference


Newsroom, I. I. (2022, September 29). Iran will restrict internet access as long as   

        protests go on. Iran International. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from 

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