Protesters clash with police during a demonstration against the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Wednesday. The Iranian government restricted internet access following the protests. Photo by EPA-EFE
September 23 (UPI) — The Iranian government on Friday blocked access to the internet and messaging apps as part of a growing crackdown on protests sparked by the death of a young woman in the custody of vice police.
In nearly 90 cities and towns, protesters took to the streets and even clashed with security forces. At least 26 people have died in the protests, which erupted after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody.
Cloudflare said Friday that mobile networks suffered a “complete shutdown” following a nationwide blackout on Wednesday. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram were also affected.
Bloomberg, citing an unnamed Tehran resident, reported that mobile internet had been blocked in recent days and Wi-Fi had been severely cut or restricted, although access appeared to be improving slightly. Many virtual private networks, or VPNs — which mask a user’s location and can be deployed to view banned sites based on geography — are blocked, as is Google.
In support of the protesters, the US Treasury Department announced on Friday that it is issuing Iranian General License GL D-2, an updated directive to extend internet service to Iranians. The new license addresses internet freedom issues, such as adding covered categories of software and services, including social media platforms and video conferencing.
“With these changes, we are helping the people of Iran be better equipped to counter government efforts to monitor and censor them,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the press release.
Billionaire Elon Musk also said he would seek a sanctions exemption so he could connect people using the Starlink satellite network, which broadcasts broadband directly between thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit and small terminals on the ground.