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Iranians Hit by Near-Total Internet Blackout as Amid Nationwide Mass Protests: All Details

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Iranians experienced a near-total Internet blackout on Wednesday amid days of mass protests against the government over the death of a woman held by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating its strictly-enforced dress code.

An Iranian official had earlier hinted that such measures might be taken out of security concerns. The loss of connectivity will make it more difficult for people to organise protests and share information about the government’s rolling crackdown on dissent.

Iran has seen nationwide protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained for allegedly wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf too loosely. Demonstrators have clashed with police and called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself, even as Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

The protests continued for a fifth day on Wednesday, including in the capital, Tehran. Police there fired tear gas at protesters who chanted “death to the dictator,” and “I will kill the one who killed my sister,” according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said security forces have used batons, birdshot, tear gas, and water cannons to disperse protesters. It reported eight deaths linked to the unrest, including four people killed by security forces. It said hundreds more have been wounded.

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Iranian officials have reported three deaths, blaming them on unnamed armed groups.

Witnesses in Iran, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said late Wednesday they could no longer access the Internet using mobile devices.

“We’re seeing Internet service, including mobile data, being blocked in Iran in the past couple of hours,” Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Kentik, Inc., a network intelligence company, said late Wednesday.

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“This is likely an action by the government given the current situation in the country,” he said. “I can confirm a near total collapse of Internet connectivity for mobile providers in Iran.”

NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors Internet access, had earlier reported widespread disruptions to both Instagram and WhatsApp.

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Facebook parent company Meta, which owns both platforms, said it was aware that Iranians were being denied access to Internet services. “We hope their right to be online will be reinstated quickly,” it said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour was quoted by state media as saying that certain restrictions might be imposed “due to security issues,” without elaborating.

Iran already blocks Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and YouTube, even though top Iranian officials use public accounts on such platforms. Many Iranians get around the bans using virtual private networks, known as VPNs, and proxies.

In a separate development, several official websites, including those for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the presidency and the Central Bank, were taken down at least briefly as hackers claimed to have launched a cyberattack on state agencies.

Hackers linked to the shadowy Anonymous movement said they targeted other Iranian state agencies, including state TV.

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Central Bank spokesman Mostafa Qamarivafa denied that the bank itself was hacked, saying only that the website was “inaccessible” because of an attack on a server that hosts it, in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency. The website was later restored.

Iran has been the target of several cyberattacks in recent years, many by hackers expressing criticism of its theocracy. Last year, a cyberattack crippled gas stations across the country, creating long lines of angry motorists unable to get subsidised fuel for days. Messages accompanying the attack appeared to refer to the supreme leader.

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Amini’s death has sparked protests across the country. The police say she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account, saying she had no previous heart issues and that they were prevented from seeing her body.

In a phone interview with BBC Persian on Wednesday her father, Amjad Amini, accused authorities of lying about her death. Each time he was asked how he thinks she died, the line was mysteriously cut.

The UN human rights office says the morality police have stepped up operations in recent months and resorted to more violent methods, including slapping women, beating them with batons and shoving them into police vehicles.

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President Joe Biden, who also spoke at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, voiced support for the protesters, saying “we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.”

The UK also released a statement Wednesday calling for an investigation into Amini’s death and for Iran to “respect the right to peaceful assembly.”

Raisi has called for an investigation into Amini’s death. Iranian officials have blamed the protests on unnamed foreign countries that they say are trying to foment unrest.

Iran has grappled with waves of protests in recent years, mainly over a long-running economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to its nuclear programme.

The Biden administration and European allies have been working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, in which Iran curbed its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but the talks have been deadlocked for months.

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In his speech at the UN, Raisi said Iran is committed to reviving the nuclear agreement but questioned whether it could trust America’s commitment to any accord.

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Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. It began ramping up its nuclear activities after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 agreement, and experts say it now likely has enough highly-enriched uranium to make a bomb if it chooses to do so.


Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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US Senate Panel Approves Bill Empowering News Organisations to Negotiate With Facebook, Google for Revenue

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The US Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve a bill aimed at allowing news organizations to band together to negotiate with Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook and win more revenue.

The bill passed the committee by a vote of 15 to 7, according to a congressional aide. It must now go to the Senate for their approval. A similar bill is before the US House of Representatives.

The bill is aimed at giving news and broadcast organisations more clout after years of criticism that big tech companies use their content to attract traffic and ad revenue without fairly compensating the publishers, many of which struggle financially.

The bill, led by Democrat Amy Klobuchar, attracted some Republican support, with Senators John Kennedy and Lindsey Graham sponsoring it. Other Democrats, like Senator Alex Padilla, expressed reservations about it.

The bill hit a speed bump earlier this month when Senator Ted Cruz won backing for a plan to include provisions to address what he considers the platforms stifling conservative voices.

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On Thursday Klobuchar won support for an amendment that specified that prices for use of content was the issue.

“The goal of the bill is to allow local news organisations to get compensation when major titans, monopolies like Facebook and Google, access their content,” she said at a committee session to vote on the bill.

Unlike other bills aimed at reining in big tech, some progressive groups oppose this measure, including Public Knowledge, on the grounds that it favors big broadcasters like News Corp, Sinclair, and Comcast/NBCU.

Also opposing the bill are two technology industry trade groups that Facebook and Google belong to: the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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WhatsApp Working to Keep Iranians Connected Amid Widespread Internet Shutdown Over Nationwide Protests

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Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp said on Thursday that it was working to keep users in Iran connected after the country restricted access to the app and social media platform Instagram.

WhatsApp “will do anything” within its technical capacity to keep the service accessible and that it was not blocking Iranian phone numbers, the messaging service said in a tweet.

We exist to connect the world privately. We stand with the rights of people to access private messaging. We are not blocking Iranian numbers. We are working to keep our Iranian friends connected and will do anything within our technical capacity to keep our service up and running

— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) September 22, 2022

Iran on Wednesday restricted access to Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the last remaining social networks in the country, amid protests over the death of a woman in police custody, according to residents and internet watchdog NetBlocks.

Last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”, has unleashed anger over issues including freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions.

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Protesters in Tehran and other Iranian cities torched police stations and vehicles earlier on Thursday as public outrage over the death showed no signs of abating, with reports of security forces coming under attack.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that the country had imposed a near-total Internet blackout on Wednesday on the fifth day of protests against the government over Amini’s death, after she was held by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating its strictly-enforced dress code.

Previously, a government official had hinted that security concerns might prompt measures to restrict internet access. As previously mentioned, Instagram and WhatsApp were the last major social media networks operating in Iran.

The country currently blocks Facebook, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp. However, top Iranian officials have access to public accounts on these platforms, while Iranians are able to access these services using virtual private networks and proxies, according to the report.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

See also  Facebook Bans Major US Anti-Vaccination Group Children's Health Defense for Spreading Covid-19 Misinformation
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Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen Launches ‘Beyond the Screen’ Organisation to Tackle Social Media Harms

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Whistleblower Frances Haugen – a former Facebook engineer who leaked documents suggesting the firm put profits before safety – on Thursday launched an organisation devoted to fighting harm caused by social media.

The new Beyond the Screen nonprofit said that its first project will be to document ways big tech is failing in its “legal and ethical obligations to society” and help come up with ways to solve those problems.

“We can have social media that brings out the best in us, and that’s what Beyond the Screen is working toward,” Haugen said in a statement.

“Beyond the Screen will focus on tangible solutions to help users gain control of our social media experience.”

Haugen last year leaked reams of internal studies showing executives knew of their site’s potential for harm, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.

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Haugen contended the tech titan, which has since rebranded itself as Meta, put profits over safety. Meta has fought back against the accusation.

Haugen’s nonprofit said it will collaborate with groups including Common Sense Media and Project Liberty that share a “commitment to supporting healthier social media.”

Beyond the Screen’s first project “represents a bold, inclusive, and much-needed effort to drive a seismic shift in how social media operates,” Project Liberty founder Frank McCourt said, according to Beyond the Screen’s statement.

“We look forward to working with Frances and her team to launch this new initiative and advance our shared goal of enabling healthier digital communities and stopping harmful business models.”

Since leaving Facebook in 2021, Haugen has advocated in the US and other countries for legislation meant to make social media platforms safer, particularly for young people.

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Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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