Domestic Economy

Internet Outages Taking Heavy Toll on Iran’s Economy: DOS

Internet Outages Taking Heavy Toll on Iran’s Economy: DOS
Internet Outages Taking Heavy Toll on Iran’s Economy: DOS

Iran launched an extensive shutdown in September in response to protests that drastically limited all digital communication in the country. Its campaigns to slow connectivity and access to popular services, including Meta's Instagram, are continuing. 
Dragging out the disruptions, though, is beginning to reveal the true economic toll, according to new assessments by the US Department of State (DOS).
Iran is already a heavily sanctioned nation, yet the government has repeatedly imposed broad digital restrictions and shutdowns, including notable initiatives in 2017 and 2019. The cumulative impact of these crackdowns has affected the rights of more than 85 million people living in Iran and disrupted every aspect of Iranian society, including commerce, WIRED reported.
“This is another instance, an important one, in which the officials show how they consistently pick their own self-interest over the public interest,” says Reza Ghazinouri, a strategic adviser for the San Francisco–based human rights and civil liberties group United for Iran. “In the past years, millions of Iranians have fallen below the poverty line, and further limiting access to platforms like Instagram just adds many more to that number. And this disproportionately impacts women. Sixty-four percent of Iranian businesses on Instagram are women-owned.”
From communicating with customers to processing transactions, businesses rely on digital platforms in different ways, but digital disruptions have an impact on businesses of all sizes. Multiple Iranian trade associations have said in recent weeks that their member companies are reporting major losses. And some reports have found that the recent outage affected hundreds of thousands of small businesses. 
The analysis of the recent shutdown by a consortium of digital rights groups, published at the end of November and cited by DOS, showed that the Iranian government has been deploying an increasingly broad set of technical capabilities to make it more difficult for the population to circumvent digital restrictions. 
For example, the government has broadened its ability to block encrypted connections to defeat users' efforts to conceal their web browsing. Officials have also continued to expand their blocks on the Google Play Store, Apple's App Store and browser extension stores, making it harder for Iranians to download circumvention tools. The findings also indicate that there is a cumulative impact and increasing effectiveness over time as the government stacks censorship, content filtering and blocking with intermittent and large-scale outages.
It is difficult to gauge the exact economic impact of the digital outages and disentangle it from other factors like international sanctions. 

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