Following a 50% increase in the price of petrol in Iran on November 15th, protests have swept across the country. A wave of anti-government and political unrest has washed over the country resulting in demonstrations that saw at least 100 banks torched, according to the Telegraph. The subsequent casualties of these protests have also been large, with over 100 protestors being killed in over 21 cities.
the subsequent casualties of these protests have also been large, with over 100 protestors being killed in over 21 cities
With machine guns being fired and rocks being thrown by protestors, the scale of these protests is evidently prominent. However, instead of tackling the issue head on, the Iranian government have dealt with this conflict by shutting down the country’s internet.
This policy is known as a blackout and means that protestors are unable to share either their images, or information about their campaigns. This consequently restricts their ability to get their messages out across platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and hence, gives the government an easy way of drawing back control from protestors.
this policy is known as a blackout and gives the government an easy way of drawing back control from protestors
With this in mind, could this explain why the social media coverage of the Iranian conflict and protests has been so small? By inevitably preventing protestors from rallying others through the media, information leaked to newspapers regarding the protests has also been halted. As a result, it can certainly be argued that this blackout is in fact largely responsible for the lack of coverage in Iran, demonstrating the powerful and restrictive powers of the government.
But is this internet blackout really going to benefit the country and stabilise an already frustrated nation? Whilst it may help the government to gain back some control over angry Iranian civilians, they could end up negatively affecting their economy in the process. The Washington Post have reported that a chief executive, who wished to remain anonymous, has said that it has already had a severely negative impact on “start ups and small businesses” and that some companies have struggled to pay salaries and rent. Thus, the provision of services to the general public has stopped.
Ultimately, if it was the economy that sparked these protests in the first place, is it really beneficial for the government to respond in a way that will only lead to further economic damage? It appears not. However the restriction of this society’s freedom of speech has not gone by unnoticed by its inhabitants, and tensions will continue to run high as a result.
Last modified: 28th November 2019