Internet Blackout: Bad News for Librarians

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The 2019 Internet blackout in Iran was a week-long total shutdown of Internet. It was ordered by Supreme National Security Council and imposed by the Ministry of ICT. The blackout was one of the Iranian government’s efforts to suppress fuel protests. During the blackout, Iranian citizens could only access the National Information Network. Mohammad-Javad Jahromi was sanctioned by the United States Department of the Treasury because of his role in Internet censorship in Iran.

The 16 – 23 November 2019 blackout was the most wide-scale internet shutdown ever in Iran. It was “the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth.” Although It was a near-total shutdown, top Iranian politicians still had access to the Internet.

The 2019 blackout was the first-ever and longest total Internet shutdown in a large country. It was also the first blackout that effectively isolated a whole nation. Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Oracle, has described the operation as “unusual in its scale” and way more advanced.

Iranians usually use VPNs to access social media, but none of them worked during the shutdown. As a result of that, some people used Toosheh to get news and other Internet-related content. It took 24 hours for MICT to cut off people’s access to the Internet.

The ministry had to order a range of ISPs and mobile data providers to stop providing users with international network and connect to NIN. Some providers withdrew their routes from the Internet and some continued to announce routes but block traffic. Although Global network was not accessible, Local services including banks, state-run messaging apps, and ride-hailing apps continued to operate through National Information Network. State-owned search engines and navigation apps were also enabled. Users first reported minor outages in Mashhad on 15 November. The disruptions increased in extent and severity with impact also visible on overall connectivity charts.

Iran’s largest mobile network operators, including MCI, Rightel and Irancell, fell offline on the evening of 16 November .The Internet blocking gradually increased until the country reached the point of total shutdown. By 20 November, national connectivity was at 5% of ordinary levels. On 23 November, NetBlocks reported that “Internet access is being restored in Iran and connectivity levels have risen to 64%”.

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