Posted on July 29, 2019 at 7:44 PM
The Ayatollah regime may have placed certain restrictions on internet usage in Iran, but Iranians continue to invent novel ways of bypassing the censorship. According to the government, “Cyberspace is controlled by foreigners.” However, citizens who find the censorship too restrictive have resorted to VPNs and proxy servers as escape mechanisms.
How Iranians Surf the Web through Restrictions
In Iran today, it is difficult to get information online, no thanks to the government’s restrictions and sanctions from the US on the country,
The citizens of the country now have to use a virtual private network and private proxy to bypass these restrictions to access the internet unlimited. However, with this software, they are faced with the problem of slow internet network or no access to the internet. An Iranian citizen lamenting his ordeal with the internet says,
“Every day I struggle for 40 minutes just to get connected to uncensored internet,” Akbari, a 30-year-old software developer, told The Associated Press. “Even after I do, the internet is so slow that I have difficulty in watching a short video.”
Even government officials have difficulty using platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and other news platforms to promote their agenda. Also, as the new government led by Rouhani tries to expand internet freedom, he has been limited by hardliners who have control over the military and the judiciary. These hardliners, using their hold in power, have successfully limited the access of the liberals in government, who want more freedom for the Iranian to express themselves online.
YouTube, which is a popular video platform and used in learning, has also been blocked. Among other effects, it is capable of reducing the ability of Iranians to learn online, as YouTube is where most people go to learn skills online.
“YouTube is like an online university, but it’s blocked,” Akbari said.
Iran Seeks to Limit Western Influence
These hardliners are wary of the effect of western countries in penetrating the Islamic republic. They fear that allowing uncontrolled access to the internet may lead to a revolution as seen in the other Islamic States. As such, it is their aim to control the number of information citizens can have access to. This way, the government can limit people from organizing and building resistance against the status quo.
The authorities have created their national information center, which is known as “halal net.” Although officials claim this is to protect the country against cyber-attack and sanctions from the United Nations. It is believed that they are responsible for the slow down of the internet access and total restriction of some platforms in the country. In fact, the Rouhani government stated that they had improved access to the internet all over the country. It also claimed to have improved internet access to the rural area, with 78% of villages with access to the internet. But this is of no effect as Iranians complain of the reduction in speed of internet access, which is very frustrating for users.
US Sanction Effects on Iran’s Internet Experience
The sanction by the Trump administration on the Iranian government has adversely impacted internet activities. It has become difficult for Iranians to shop online using platforms such as Amazon as some of the citizens shared their experiences. Also, they have been restricted from using some of the online popular payment processors such as PayPal. Similarly, some foreign companies now totally step back on doing business with Iranians online.
The relationship between the United States-led Trump administration and the Iranian government deteriorated due to the nuclear deal proposed by the US government. Even Iranian government officials are also hard hit by the sanction, as according to them, they have to purchase books and other valuables from Amazon using diplomatic channels. In essence, the Iranian people are finding it difficult to access the internet for information and business. Bypassing through a virtual private network, they still have to get by with the slow network, which may take minutes to access a platform that would ordinarily have taken seconds.