As the unrest grows, Iran has banned access to Instagram and WhatsApp. Iran blocked access to the meta platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, the country’s two remaining social networks, on Wednesday, residents and internet watchdog Netbox said, in protest over the death of a woman in police custody.
Last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “inappropriate dress”, has sparked outrage over issues including freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy suffering from sanctions.
NetBlocks also reported “loss of nationwide connectivity” on the networks of Iran’s main mobile telephone provider and another company.
Hours after Instagram’s services were blocked, WhatsApp’s servers at several internet providers were disrupted, London-based NetBlock said.
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The group’s figures show a near-total disruption of internet service in parts of western Iran’s Kurdistan province since Monday, while the capital Tehran and other parts of the country have also suffered disruptions since Friday when protests first broke out.
Two residents of Tehran and southern Iran said they could only send text and not pictures on WhatsApp, and Instagram appeared to be completely blocked.
Iran has often blocked Internet access, making it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to drum up support and to get reliable reports about the extent of the unrest.
In 2019, the government shut down the internet for nearly a week to help fuel protests that turned politicized, sparking the bloodiest crackdown in the Islamic Republic’s 40-year history.
The protests have been particularly sharp in Kurdistan, where Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have a history of suppressing unrest.
Iran’s communications minister said Wednesday that he was misquoted when news outlets quoted him as saying authorities could disrupt internet services for security reasons.
Social media websites such as TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are regularly blocked in parts of the Islamic Republic, which has some of the strictest internet controls in the world. But tech-savvy residents bypass the restrictions by using virtual private networks (VPNs).
Meta and Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.