Iranian Presidential Candidate Mostafa Pourmohammadi

Iranian Presidential Candidate Pledges to End Internet Bans

Thursday, 06/13/2024

Iranian presidential candidate Mostafa Pourmohammadi has vowed to end the practice of internet bans, likening the internet to "the water for life" and acknowledging the disruption caused by current censorship.

Pourmohammadi committed to appointing a minister dedicated to "ending the VPN game and guaranteeing the security of users" after widespread bans on the likes of social media and dissident websites has cut swathes of Iran off from the digital world. Many have been forced to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass the bans which have worsened in the wake of Iran's uprising since 2022.

Pourmohammadi's remarks have sparked controversy among Iranians who are skeptical of his sudden advocacy against internet censorship.

One user pointedly remarked on social media platform X, "Do you only remember filtering during election time?"

Further exacerbating concerns is the recent movement in the Iranian parliament to reintroduce a bill last month that could further tighten internet controls, ostensibly aimed at "protecting cyberspace users" but likely to deepen social repression.

Iran's approach to internet censorship has been a contentious issue for over two decades, with routine blocking of websites and social media applications. Many Iranians bypass the restrictions using VPNs and other tools but the government's measures have grown more severe, especially following the nationwide protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody in September 2022.

In response, the government blocked major internet services like Instagram and WhatsApp which massively affected the country's SMEs where ecommerce was an essential means of survival, especially those in rural Iran.

Freedom House has ranked Iran 11/100 for internet access, calling it "not free" in its 2023 report, noting the crackdowns following 2022's uprising.

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