The US signed on to an online coalition’s statement Thursday that condemned Iran’s restrictions to internet access during nationwide protests over the death of Mahsa Amini last month.
The Freedom Online Coalition is made up of 34 governments that collaborate to advance internet freedom worldwide.
“In furtherance of what has become a long-standing pattern of censorship, the Iranian government has to a large scale shut down the internet yet again for most of its 84 million citizens nationwide by cutting off mobile data; disrupting popular social media platforms; throttling internet service; and blocking individual users, encrypted DNS services, text messages, and access entirely,” the FOC said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan supported the FOC’s statement.
“The Iranian government continues to restrict internet access following protests spurred by Mahsa Amini’s tragic killing. The US joins the @FO_Coalition’s consensus statement calling for Iran to lift the restrictions and respect human rights online,” Blinken tweeted on Thursday.
Sullivan also tweeted, saying, “Today, the United States joined the @FO_Coalition in condemning #Iran’s measures to restrict access to the Internet in the wake of protests over the killing of #MahsaAmini. Iran must respect human rights and Internet freedom.”
The FOC statement said, “We emphatically call on the government of Iran to immediately lift restrictions intended to disrupt or prevent their citizens from accessing and disseminating information online and from communicating safely and securely.”
Iran has accused countries that have expressed support for the protests of meddling in its internal affairs.
Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Iran’s Kurdistan region, was arrested on September 13 by the so-called morality police for improper wearing of the hijab. She died three days later while in police custody.
Iran’s religious leaders have tried to portray the unrest as part of a breakaway uprising by the Kurdish minority threatening the nation’s unity, rather than as a protest of clerical rule, Reuters reported.
Common tactic for deletion
Restrictions on internet access are “a common tactic that governments use to suppress dissent and quell unrest,” the World Economic Forum said on Thursday.
The forum reported that “in 2021, at least 182 internet shutdowns were documented in 34 countries,” based on data from Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition, an international association of digital advocacy groups.
Governments can prevent their populations from accessing the internet in a variety of ways, the World Economic Forum said. These include shutting off the power grid or dismantling the internet infrastructure, such as cellphone towers or fiber-optic networks, the forum said.
Officials also can restrict access to specific websites or communication platforms, such as Facebook, Telegram or WhatsApp, by blocking specific URLs or IP addresses, it added.