NetBlocks says the disruption is “the most severe” since the internet was blocked during the 2019 fuel protests.
Iran has restricted access to the social networks Instagram and WhatsApp amid protests over the death of a woman detained by police, according to residents and Internet watchdog NetBlocks.
Significant internet outages were also reported across the country when one of the largest mobile operators was taken offline, leaving millions of Iranians without connectivity.
The death last week of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Tehran’s vice police for “inappropriate clothing,” sparked outrage over issues such as freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions.
At least six protesters, as well as a policeman and a member of the pro-government militia, have now been killed, according to Iranian media and officials. However, activist groups say the death toll is higher.
NetBlocks also reported a “nationwide loss of connectivity” with Iran’s main mobile operator and another company’s network.
WhatsApp servers were down at several ISPs hours after Instagram services were blocked, London-based NetBlocks reported.
The data groups show a near-total internet shutdown in parts of western Iran’s Kurdistan province since Monday, while the capital Tehran and other parts of the country have also experienced outages since Friday, when protests first erupted.
⚠️ #Iran it is now subject to the strictest internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre.
▶️ Mobile networks mostly disabled (MCI, Rightel, Irancell – partially)
▶️ Regional unrest seen during protests
▶️ Instagram, WhatsApp limited https://t.co/8cCHIJA2Oi
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) September 21, 2022
Two residents of Tehran and southern Iran said they can only send text, not photos on WhatsApp, and that Instagram appears to be completely blocked.
Both platforms are owned by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, and are among the few social networks still in operation. NetBlocks said the disruptions were “the most severe” since 2019, when the government shut down the internet for about a week to quell incitement to protests.
Without access to the internet, it’s harder for people to post videos on social media to build support for their cause or get credible reports on what’s going on.
The unrest this month has been particularly intense in Amini’s home province in northwest Kurdistan.
Amini, 22, lived in Saqqez, Kurdistan, and was in Tehran when she was detained for what Iran’s “vice police” called “immodest clothing,” violating Iran’s mandatory modesty dress rules that were introduced shortly after the Islamic Revolution. in 1979.
Authorities say she suffered a stroke and a heart attack while she was in an “orientation center” and was transferred to a nearby hospital, where she died a few days later.
Amini’s family denied Tehran’s police chief’s claims that she had several pre-existing medical conditions such as epilepsy and diabetes.
Social media websites such as TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are routinely blocked in parts of the Islamic Republic, which have some of the strictest internet controls in the world. But tech-savvy residents often use virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around restrictions.