Concerns Rise In Iran Over Internet Access

Iran’s flag.

 

A group of Iranian lawmakers are working on a draft bill that could further restrict access to the internet, a reformist newspaper said Sunday.

The bill calls for “organising social media” and the banning of virtual private network (VPN) software used widely by Iranians to bypass internet restrictions and blocks imposed on several social media websites, according to Etemad.

Over the past few days, internet users in Iran have expressed concern over the draft bill proposed by some conservative lawmakers, who hold the majority in parliament since 2020.

The text also calls for jails terms of between 91 days and six months for any one found guilty of violating the terms of the bill if it becomes law, according to Etemad.

Repeat offenders could also be fined, receive up to 30 lashes and be “deprived of their civic rights”, the newspaper said.

It accused the lawmakers behind the draft of acting against “the most basic rights of citizens” and against “freedom of expression and media freedoms”.

Etemad said the bill also aims at banning altogether the use of foreign social media, with Iranians left with locally-developped networks that would help authorities control their content.

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Instagram and WhatsApp are the only social media services accessible in Iran, unlike Facebook and Twitter and the Telegram messenger service which are officially banned.

And yet several Iranian figures use Twitter for official communications, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Parliament’s news agency ICANA on Sunday quoted deputy Ali Yazdikhah, a member of the commission of cultural affairs, as confirming the existence of a draft bill on internet use.

But he told the agency the bill was aimed at firms that develop VPN, “not users”, and also bemoaned “the lack of controls in cyberspace”.

AFP