On Sunday, Iran imposed a near-total internet and mobile data shutdown as protests entered their third day. Anti-government demonstrations in the country began soon after it was announced that the price of petrol would rise 50 percent for the first 60 liters each month and by 300 percent for anything surpassing that.
The protests have been violent; at least 30 have been killed, hundreds injured, and more than 1,000 people have been arrested. Nearly everyone has been denied the right to access and share information following the Supreme National Security Council of Iran's decision to block the internet. This came after state television claimed that "hostile media" attempted to spread "fake news" regarding the protests.
According to NetBlocks, an NGO that monitors internet governance, the connectivity to the outside world remains at just 5 percent of ordinary levels, 40 hours after the internet shutdown was implemented. The organization also called it the most severe shutdown it has ever tracked "in terms of its technical complexity and breadth."
NetBlocks also notes that fixed-internet access isn't the only thing that has been affected. Mobile operators such as MCI, Rightel, and Irancell were also blocked.
Babak Taghvaee, a defense analyst and historian who is not based in Iran, told TechCrunch that his communication with contacts has also been broken. He also said that phone calls were being monitored by the state.
"Internet is completely shut-down and I can't communicate [with] anyone," he said. "People just can call abroad (just certain countries) using telephone which is being monitored."
The internet shut down hasn't put a halt to the demonstrations. On the contrary, it's been reported that people in 100 cities and towns have taken to the streets to join the demonstrations. Some protesters have even abandoned their cars along major highways; others have been shot and killed by authorities for demanding their rights.
The decision to raise petrol prices was endorsed by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who also referred to the demonstrators as "thugs."
The leader also acknowledged that "some lost their lives" and added that "some places were destroyed" without elaborating further on the matter. He then blamed the protests on "monarchists and opposition groups trying to destabilize Iran."
But denying citizens access to the internet, a human right, is destabilization on its own. Especially considering the fact that top politicians, like Khamenei, are still able to use Twitter and other public platforms.
Alp Toker, the director of NetBlocks, said that it took Iranian authorities about 24 hours to completely block the nation's inbound and outbound traffic. Wired explained that it's a long and complicated process to do so. It remains unclear how long the internet shutdown will last in Iran. Regardless, the decision to do so has been described as a human rights violation by the United Nations. Will people continue to be violated, abused, and killed for demanding their rights?