Internet disrupted in Iran on anniversary of fuel protests

Network data from the NetBlocks Internet Observatory confirm a partial disruption to internet service in Iran between 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. local time (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. UTC) on Monday, 16 November 2020.

Metrics show an anomalous three-hour period of reduction in connection quality and speed impacting multiple networks, corroborating user reports of issues accessing international services, including VPN services.

The disruption comes on the day of the first anniversary of the 2019 Internet blackout in Iran, which was imposed as thousands of demonstrators to the streets in protest of rising fuel prices and political restrictions of personal freedoms.

 

While protests are not reported today, users went online to post memories from the previous year’s protests which saw hundreds killed in clashes with security forces. NetBlocks archives indicate that the the 2019 internet blackout was implemented at almost the same time of day as the present incident:

The disruption is distinct from a total outage. A similar three-hour slowdown documented by NetBlocks on 14 July 2020 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 generally be worked around by users. Hence, it can limit access to information without the manifestation of a total blackout.

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.

Previously:


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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