Skip to Content
Policy

Iran has shut off internet access for its citizens amid fuel price protests

November 18, 2019
Scorched public buses that remained on the street in Tehran, Iran, after protests that followed authorities' decision to raise gasoline prices
Scorched public buses that remained on the street in Tehran, Iran, after protests that followed authorities' decision to raise gasoline pricesAssociated Press

What has happened: Protests erupted across Iran on Friday after the government unexpectedly announced its decision to ration fuel and remove subsidies, sending prices soaring by at least 50%. The move is part of efforts to mitigate the effects of crippling US sanctions on Iran’s economy. In response to the demonstrations, Iran’s government almost instantly started to shut off internet access for its citizens, starting in Mashhad, the country’s second-biggest city. 

Blackout: Iran’s largest mobile network operators all fell offline on Saturday, and there is now a near-total internet and telecommunication blackout inside the country. National connectivity is at 5% of ordinary levels, according to NetBlocks, an NGO that monitors internet freedom.

Shooting itself in the foot: Iran’s government is trying to stop protesters from organizing, and media outlets from reporting on the protests. NetBlocks said it is the most severe disconnection it’s ever seen in any country, in terms of technical complexity and breadth.

While the shutdown might temporarily disrupt protests, it will do nothing to address their underlying causes, and may make the situation even worse for the government. Despite the fact that internet shutdowns are increasingly favored as a tactic by authoritarian regimes, they leave people feeling even more aggrieved (see Kashmir) and have a deeply negative impact on the economy.

Sign up here to our daily newsletter The Download to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.

Deep Dive

Policy

Is there anything more fascinating than a hidden world?

Some hidden worlds--whether in space, deep in the ocean, or in the form of waves or microbes--remain stubbornly unseen. Here's how technology is being used to reveal them.

Africa’s push to regulate AI starts now        

AI is expanding across the continent and new policies are taking shape. But poor digital infrastructure and regulatory bottlenecks could slow adoption.

Yes, remote learning can work for preschoolers

The largest-ever humanitarian intervention in early childhood education shows that remote learning can produce results comparable to a year of in-person teaching.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.