Iran began shutting down the internet on September 19 as protests over Amini’s death gained momentum. Since then, a number of internet monitoring organizations, including Kentik, Netblocks, Cloudflare, and the Open Observatory of Network Interference, documented the unrest. Mobile network operators, including the country’s largest providers – Iranell, Rightel, and MCI – have faced blackouts, the groups said. Multiple mobile providers have lost connectivity for around 12 hours at a time, with Netblocks saying it has seen a “curfew-like pattern of disruption.” Felicia Anthonio, who leads NGO Access Now’s fight against internet shutdowns, says the group’s partners have reported that text messages containing Amini’s name have been blocked. “If you send a message that includes that name, it doesn’t go through,” Anthonio said.
The crackdown against Instagram and WhatsApp began on September 21. While shutting down mobile connections is very disruptive, blocking access to WhatsApp and Instagram cuts off some of the only remaining social media services in Iran. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been banned for years. Iran’s state-supported media He said it was not clear how long the blocks on Instagram and WhatsApp would last but that they were put in place for “national security” reasons. “They seem to be targeting these platforms that are lifelines for information and communication that keep the protests alive,” said Mahsa Alimardani, an academic at the Oxford Internet Institute who has extensively studied how to shut down and controls Iran’s internet.
Team member 1500tasvir says the account, which is run by a group of about 10 core people inside and outside Iran, posts videos to document the protests. People on the ground send the videos—in some areas, there are patchy connections and fixed Wi-Fi connections still work—and the group checks the content before posting it online. The group says it receives more than 1,000 videos a day, and its Instagram account has more than 450,000 followers.
Shutting down the internet can have a “huge” impact on protests, said team member 1500tasvir, because when people around Iran can’t see that others are protesting, they may be likely to stop themselves. “When you … see other people feel the same way, you become braver. You’re more motivated to do something about it,” they say. “When the internet is cut off … you feel alone.”
The blocks against WhatsApp also seem to have affected people outside of Iran. People using Iranian +98 phone numbers have complained that WhatsApp has been slow to work or not working at all. WhatsApp has deny he does anything to block Iranian phone numbers. However, the Meta-owned company has refused to provide further information on why +98 numbers outside Iran have encountered problems. “There’s something strange going on, and it’s likely to do with the way Iran operates censorship on these different platforms because it seems a little more targeted,” Alimardani said.