Internet disrupted in Iran amid regional protests

Network data from the NetBlocks internet observatory have identified internet restrictions in Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran from 10:00 p.m. local time Thursday 16 July 2020. The incident was registered as authorities dispatched security forces in response to regional anti-government rallies.

What’s behind Iran’s internet disruptions?

Internet restrictions with regional effect have been registered by the Internet Observatory in Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran from 10 p.m. local time. Verified user reports also indicate disruption to cellular networks further afield. Demonstrations are taking place in Behbahan, Khuzestan with slogans critical of Iranian foreign policy and the economic crisis. In recent days, many Iranians have spoken out against the death penalty following the sentencing of youths who participated in the November 2019 protests.

 

Disruptions identified on Thursday affect connectivity at the network layer and cannot easily be worked around by users. Hence, they are likely to limit coverage of incidents as they take place.

Earlier in the week Tuesday 14 July 2020, multiple networks were disrupted for approximately three hours while users reported slow or unusable internet. The disruption occurred as hashtags calling on Iranian authorities to halt executions trended globally on social media.

On Saturday 18 July, compounding the impact of Iran’s network disruptions, Khuzestan’s governorate announced a three-day lockdown of 22 cities and towns in the province including Behbahan citing previously unreported claims of a 100-fold rise in COVID-19 infections.

Recent disruptions and shutdowns

Iran has faced a series of network disruptions in recent months, with some attributed to external factors, and others to state information controls or targeted internet shutdowns. NetBlocks investigations have helped identify the root causes of these network outages.

In November 2019, Iran deliberately shut down internet access amid widespread public protests. While the shutdown started as a total outage, users gradually regained access as connectivity was selectively brought back after a week.

On 8 February 2020 internet access was cut in Iran as a response to a cyber-attack after authorities activated what they described as the “Digital Fortress” isolation mechanism.

Other disruptions are caused by international connectivity failures, with one recent incident traced to power fluctuations and outages in neighboring Armenia:

 

NetBlocks recommends against the use of network disruptions to limit the rights to free expression and free assembly.

Further reading


Methodology

NetBlocks diffscans, which map the IP address space of a country in real time, show internet connectivity levels and corresponding outages. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.

A summary of data visualizations used in this report:

  • Network Connectivity (Regional): Selected internet providers and networks geolocated to their approximate region are visualized in a stacked time-series chart to identify the start and end times of an internet outage event. Scales on the y-axis are adjusted to match localized maxima while minima are scaled to 0 indicate periods when networks became unreachable. The x-axis represents Universal Coordinated time (GMT+0). Connectivity levels on the y-axis correspond to the observed number of reachable connections.
    • Standard: Connectivity levels on the y-axis correspond directly to the observed number of reachable connections, as with National Connectivity charts.

NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.

[ methodology handbook | press | contact ] Graphics and visualizations provided under a free and open license for reuse with clear attribution.