Internet disrupted in Iran as thousands gather to mourn singer Shajarian

Network data from the NetBlocks Internet Observatory confirm disruptions to internet service in Tehran from 7:00 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. UTC) on Thursday 8 October 2020. Metrics show an ongoing fall in regional connectivity that came into place as Iranians took to the streets to commemorate outspoken musician Mohammad Reza Shajarian, who passed away at the age of 80.

 

Shajarian, an acclaimed singer whose following spanned political divides, was banned from performing in his country after speaking out in support of Iran’s 2009 anti-government protests.

Shortly before the telecommunication disruption came into effect, videos appeared on social media showing gatherings outside the hospital where Shajarian was being treated while users began to report connectivity issues and slowdowns.

The internet disruption shares characteristics with previously recorded partial, localized restrictions observed during periods of unrest in Iran. On 14 July 2020, a similar incident was documented by NetBlocks as Iranians spoke out against the death penalty following the sentencing of youths who participated in the November 2019 protests:

This class of internet disruption affects connectivity at the network layer and cannot be worked around by users. Hence, they can limit coverage of incidents as they take place.

Recent disruptions and shutdowns

Iran has faced a series of network disruptions since 2019, 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 shut down internet access nationally amid widespread public protests. In that instance, users gradually regained access as connectivity was selectively brought back after a week of near-total outages.

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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, Predictive Analysis  (Regional): Selected internet providers and networks geolocated to their approximate region are visualized in a 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 were slowed or became unreachable. The x-axis represents Universal Coordinated time (GMT+0). The y-axis corresponds to predicted connectivity levels, while areas highlighted in red represent the difference with actual observed connectivity levels.

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.

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