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Iran's Internet blackout: A 'tool of repression'

Iranian women pass a branch of the Iranian Melat Bank that was burned during the protests over increasing fuel prices in the city of Shahriar, Iran, on Nov. 20, 2019.

Nearly a week after Iran's government imposed a near-total Internet and mobile data blackout amid protests over a rise in gas prices, its connectivity to the rest of the world remains extremely limited and reflects what researchers and activists claim, disputed by Iran, is a "tool of repression" used by regimes from Ethiopia to Venezuela.

But the shutdown in Iran, which began Nov. 17 and remains at about 15% of normal levels, according to NetBlocks, a firm that tracks cybersecurity, has not only allowed officials in Tehran to exert control over information about the unrest.

It has also cut off Iranians from their friends and family abroad, seemingly strengthened the Trump administration's perception that its "maximum pressure" policy on Iran is working after Washington exited the nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions, and further obscured what's happening and who's to blame in a Middle Eastern nation whose political and economic isolation has fluctuated in the four decades since its 1979 revolution that ushered in its now entrenched Islamic Republic. 

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