Iran began shutting down the Internet on September 19 as protests intensified around Amini’s death. Since then, several Internet-monitoring organizations, including Kentic, NetBlock, CloudFlare, and Open Observatory of Network Intervention, have documented the constraints. Mobile network operators, including the country’s largest providers Irancel, Rightel and MCI, have faced rolling blackouts, the groups say. Several mobile providers lost connectivity for around 12 hours at a time, with NetBlock saying it had seen a “curfew-style pattern of disruption”. Felicia Antoniou, who leads NGO Access Now’s fight against internet shutdowns, says the group’s partners have reported that text messages bearing Amini’s name have been blocked. “If you’re sending a message with that name, it doesn’t get through,” says Antonio.
The crackdown against Instagram and WhatsApp began on September 21. While shutting down mobile connections is highly disruptive, blocking access to WhatsApp and Instagram cuts off the few remaining social media services in Iran. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been banned for years. State-supported Iranian media said It is unclear how long the blocks on Instagram and WhatsApp will last but they were imposed for “national security” reasons. “It seems they are targeting these platforms that are the lifelines for information and communication that are keeping the protests alive,” says Mahsa Alimardani, an academic at the Oxford Internet Institute, who is based in Iran. Has extensively studied internet shutdowns and controls.
A member of the 1500 Pictures team says the account, which is run by a core group of about 10 people inside and outside Iran, has been posting videos to document the protests. People on the ground send videos—in some areas, patchy connections are available and stable Wi-Fi connections still work—and the group checks the content before posting it online. The group says it’s getting more than 1,000 videos per day, and its Instagram account has more than 450,000 followers.
A member of the 1500 picture team says that the internet shutdown could have a “huge” impact on the protests, because when people around Iran can’t see that others are protesting, they stop themselves. There may be a possibility of “When you … see other people feel the same way, you become braver. You’re more motivated to do something about it,” he says. “When the internet goes down… you feel alone.”
Blocks against WhatsApp appear to have affected people outside of Iran as well. People using Iranian +98 telephone numbers have complained that WhatsApp is slow or not working at all. WhatsApp has Denied It is doing anything to block Iranian phone numbers. However, the Meta-owned company declined to provide any further information on why +98 numbers outside Iran were experiencing problems. “There’s something strange going on here, and it’s likely to be the way Iran applies censorship on these different platforms because it seems a little more targeted,” Alimardani says.