Iranian MP Says Censorship Advocates Benefit From VPN Boon

Wednesday, 11/08/2023

An Iranian MP claims there is a link between those lobbying for internet censorship and the companies producing censorship circumvention tools like VPNs.

Javad Nikbin, a member of the Cultural committee of the Iranian Parliament, made the connection, which also followed recent comments by another parliament member, Jalal Rashidi Kouchi, who estimated that the financial turnover of VPN sellers in Iran amounts to approximately 800 million to 1 billion dollars annually.

Additionally, another lawmaker, Mohammad Hassan Asafari, has previously alluded to the infiltration of government organizations by these VPN companies.

Since September 2022, Iran has witnessed an increase in censorship measures, often accompanied by internet shutdowns, in response to protests. It was anticipated that with the subsiding of these protests, popular messaging apps used by citizens would have their filters lifted. However, this did not occur.

Instead, the market for VPNs and circumvention tools designed to bypass filtering has thrived. According to parliament members, the income generated by the sellers has skyrocketed to hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Reports from the Ministry of Communications in 2019 indicated that at least 28 domestic companies were engaged in the business of selling VPNs. Despite the awareness of judicial and security authorities regarding this matter, no action has been taken against these activities. The revelation of these connections between filtering advocates and VPN producers raises concerns about the implications and potential for further regulatory action in Iran's online space.

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