ISSN 2330-717X

Iran: Bill For Protection Of Cyberspace Users Internet Restriction Plan Faces Temporary Defeat – OpEd

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By Hossein Beizayi

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The internet is considered a manifestation of never-ending communication, innovation, and creativity for humans. A level of communication and creativity that has never existed before. It knows no boundaries and brings huge economic opportunities for people around the world. The internet has opened access to previously inaccessible areas of information and technology. Given the internet’s increasingly important role as a communication tool, the United Nations recently proposed that access to internet services should become a human right.

Iranian regime’s lack of accountability and transparency

In its more than four decades of reign in Iran, the Iranian regime has never taken responsibility for its wrong and controversial decisions and policies in running the country. At the head of the authoritarian regime in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself has a long history of evading accountability and responsibility for many of his decisions. This method of his rule is now more visible than ever in the administration of all ministries and the parliament of Iran.

Secrecy, disregard for public opinion, shirking responsibility, prioritizing the thinking of a particular political and religious faction, indifference to global developments, and intensifying interference in some countries are the most important features of the current system in Iran. This situation should be considered as an evolved form of Ali Khamenei’s leadership in Iran. A form of leadership that issues all the orders behind the scenes but refuses to publicly accept the responsibility for its consequences, and the blame always falls to others.

The issue of restricting Internet access has been raised many times in various forms and names by members of the Iranian regime’s parliament and officials. However, every time it has faced opposition from the public and even some members of parliament and ex-officials; as a result, it has been pushed back. In the latter case, the so-called “bill for the Protection of Cyberspace Users“, which was once approved by a parliamentary commission in a short period of time, was halted due to public pressure.

On many occasions, Khamenei has complained about the state of the Internet in Iran, including in his March 21, 2021 speech. He described cyberspace as “unbridled,” and that it should not be “surrendered to the enemy”. To help restrict the Internet in Iran and implement such a policy, Khamenei has ordered the formation of several extralegal bodies, one of which is the High Council of Cyberspace. The Supreme Council of Cyberspace is an institution established upon Ali Khamenei’s order with the aim of policy-making in matters related to interaction with cyberspace, and less than a decade has passed since its formation.

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Real reasons behind internet restrictions in Iran

The catalyst that seemed to have forced the Iranian regime to launch this wave of internet censorship is the regime’s fear of messaging apps and social media platforms assisting protesters, strikers, activists, and dissidents to communicate with each other and organize demonstrations and protest actions. During the major nationwide protests of November 2019, many images, videos, and messages were shared across social media, spreading information across Iran and the world alike.

Going back, following the 2009 nationwide protests in Iran, the regime banned access to the popular social media platforms at the time, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The fate of the recent “bill for the Protection of Cyberspace Users”, which is nicknamed the Internet massacre plan in Iran, and is of crucial importance for the regime, is in the hands of Ali Khamenei. So far, due to the controversy encircling this plan, including public outrage and the dire economic consequences for online businesses, neither the High Council of Cyberspace, nor the parliament, nor any other institution has been able to approve and implement its generalities.

In reality, the “bill for the Protection of Cyberspace Users” has now become a point of contention between the different factions within the regime. The regime’s decision to push forward with restricting internet services in the country will only further damage the country’s economy, which is already on the verge of collapse. Millions of Iranians rely on the internet, and especially messaging apps, for their business. In 2019, the internet was shut down for a number of weeks at the height of the widespread uprising throughout Iran, a decision that ultimately caused billions of dollars of damage to the economy. It is perhaps safe to say that further disruptions will only aggravate the current critical economic problems and may incite new waves of protests and possibly another uprising. The very thing that the “bill for the Protection of Cyberspace Users” is trying to prevent.

Iran News Wire

Iran News Wire is home to real news on Iran. We are dedicated to honest and reliable reporting. We aim to be the voice of the Iranian people and their protests for freedom and democracy at a time when the Iranian government wants to silence dissent and suppress their voices for democracy

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