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Iran began shutting down the internet on September 19 as protests over Amini’s death gained momentum. Since then, there have been several Internet monitoring organizations, including Kentik, Netblocks, Cloudflare, and Open network interference observatory, documented the breach. Mobile network operators, including the country’s biggest providers – Irancell, Rightel and MCI – faced rolling outages, the groups say. Several mobile providers lost connections for around 12 hours straight, with Netblocks saying there was a “curfew-style pattern of outages”. Felicia Anthonio, who leads the fight against internet shutdowns with the NGO Access Now, says the group’s partners have reported that text messages containing Amini’s name have been blocked. “If you send a message containing that name, it won’t go through,” says Anthonio.

The crackdown on Instagram and WhatsApp began on September 21. While shutting down mobile connections is extremely disruptive, blocking access to WhatsApp and Instagram will cut off some of the only remaining social media services in Iran. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been banned for years. Iran’s state-supported media he said it was not clear how long the Instagram and WhatsApp blocks would last, but that they were put in place for “national security” reasons. “They seem to be targeting these platforms, which are the lifelines for information and communication that keep the protests alive,” says Mahsa Alimardani, an academic at the Oxford Internet Institute who has worked extensively on shutting down and controlling Iran’s internet.

A member of the 1500tasvir team says the account, run by a group of about 10 grassroots people inside and outside Iran, has been posting videos to document the protests. People on the ground submit videos — there are patchy connections in some areas, and fixed Wi-Fi connections still work — and the group reviews the content before posting it online. The group says it receives more than 1,000 videos a day, and its Instagram account has more than 450,000 followers.

Shutting down the internet could have a “huge” impact on protests, says team member 1500tasvir, because if people around Iran don’t see others protesting, they’re likely to stop. “When you… see that other people feel the same way, it gives you courage. You’re more excited to do something about it,” they say. “When the internet is cut off, you feel alone.”

WhatsApp blocking also seems to have affected people outside of Iran. People using Iran’s +98 phone numbers have complained that WhatsApp is working slowly or not working at all. WhatsApp has denied doing whatever it takes to block Iranian phone numbers. However, the Meta-owned company declined to provide further information on why +98 numbers outside Iran were facing problems. “There’s something strange going on, and it’s probably related to the way Iran is implementing censorship on these different platforms, because it seems to be a little more targeted,” Alimardani says.



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