The slowdown of the internet in Iran has become a major crisis and led to disputes between the Iranian regime’s officials. Many have already warned the government about the consequences of their decision to slow down the internet in the country and restrict access to it. Obviously, the decision has been prompted by the Iranian people’s increasing use of social media to communicate and organize anti-government protests and rallies. The regime is also terrified of the public’s access through the internet to news and information about the activities of its main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), and the Resistance Units.
Reacting to the internet slow-down, a former member of parliament Ahmad Shirzad warned on February 19, “The internet issue has become a critical subject and every government and agency which decided to change something will face problems.”
Once again, to shirk responsibility for the decision they have made, regime officials are coming up with different excuses to explain why the internet has slowed down.
The state-run news agency, ISNA, quoted the regime’s government spokesperson as saying on February 22, “The main reason for the slow speed of the Internet, especially in the fixed Internet, is related to the Coronavirus peak. The disruption has occurred since the existing coronavirus peak, especially the fixed internet. The existing infrastructure in the bandwidth, especially the fixed internet, is not commensurate with the needs of the country today and cannot respond to this coronavirus peak.”
As expected, Iranians rejected his claims, and many took to social media to mock the regime for their bold-faced lies, as no such thing happened in previous peaks, so why now?
The government’s claims were so baseless that even the state media outlets, like the Fars news agency, criticized it on the same day after the comments of the regime’s spokesperson: “Recent grievances show that these answers have not been a convincing answer for users, and people still have questions and ambiguities about the slowness and disruption of the Internet.”
In an article titled ‘Do not put a finger in the eyes of society’, the state-run Etemad daily wrote on February 22, “Some policies are doomed to failure due to the lack of support from society. A concrete example of such a policy can be seen in the law on satellite restrictions in the early 1990s. Iranian policymakers suffer from a kind of chronic’ technology phobia. It is afraid of technology and innovation and always feels threatened by it.”
Mehrdad Vayskarami, one of the regime’s MPs and the Secretary of the Joint Internet Protection Plan Commission spoke explicitly about “the feeling of fear and threat.” The state-run Hamdeli daily quoted him as saying, “Whenever acute political and security issues arise in the country, the government decides to block the Internet.”
On the other hand, MP Mohammad Taghi Naghdali in pointing out the main objective behind the decision to restrict and slow down the internet said, “I am referring to Article 22, paragraph 11. Today in Albania, 200 ‘hypocrites’ (MEK/PMOI) are poised to destroy the revolutionary government and parliament. The joint commission has discussed the protection of cyberspace users’ bill in 48 sessions and plans to convene the other 10 sessions. Even though the esteemed chairman has approved this bill today, it is still neither beneficial nor fruitful.”
On February 20, the Hamdeli daily predicted that the regime’s decision will ultimately fail, given the previous experience with dealing with technology. It wrote, “In contemporary history, we have gone to war with technology many times, from video, satellite, radio, and television to Telegram and Twitter. The result of the war against that technology is known from the very beginning. Even today, if one thinks that the way to manage the Internet and cyberspace is to reduce the bandwidth and filtering, they should rest assured that it will not work.”
On February 24, the state-run daily Farhikhtegan warned the regime that the decision will likely lead to civil disobedience and “the leverage of the policymakers over this space will also be lost.”
Quoting Nasser Imani, one of the regime’s experts, the same daily warned the regime and wrote that the “approval of the protection plan harms the social capital of the system,” noting that the parliament’s approach was “dangerous.”
In another article by the same daily, Mohamad Jafar Nanakar, a former regime official in the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology also warned the regime. “Assuming that this plan is realized and stabilized, it will create dissatisfaction. This plan will also create international problems if implemented. It will definitely be dealt with by the UN Human Rights Council,” he said.