The protests which erupted in Iran at the end of December quickly escalated and spread across several cities in the country, with the events being recorded and shared on social media. Even though foreign journalists are largely forbidden by the Iranian government, videos and photos of demonstrations quickly began circulating as Iranians uploaded cell phone camera footage.
Many of the photos circulating on the internet showed demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans. As a result, on December 31, the Iranian government banned Telegram, a popular social networking application, and the photo-sharing application Instagram, AEI reports.
In the excerpted article from the Mehr News Agency, Deputy Attorney General Abdol Samad Khorramabadi, chair of the Committee for Identifying Criminal Content, harshly criticized the Ministry of Communications for not blocking Instagram before the protests began.
He has long pushed against social media access, calling Twitter a “platform for terrorists,” and using it to justify banning it. However, many Iranian parliamentarians, the Supreme Leader, president, and foreign minister all maintain Twitter accounts.
Khorramabadi has also long campaigned for a “national internet” which would entail cutting access to all social media applications and websites which the government does not control. Even though it is doubtful whether the Islamic Republic has the technical capacity to create a giant, impenetrable firewall, it has certainly demonstrated the capacity to shut down social media access on a temporary basis.
Now, with the attention the protests received on a global scale, it is very likely that Khorramabadi and his political allies will fulfill their quest to roll back Internet freedom.