Iranian Netizens Flock to Tor After Web Crackdown

Iranian Netizens Flock to Tor After Web Crackdown

The Iranian authorities have blocked social media and messaging services, with Tor seemingly the main beneficiary, as protests continue in the Islamic Republic.

Violent clashes between protestors and police over the past seven days have seen over 20 killed across the country.  

Yet despite president Hassan Rouhani’s claims that the government would allow “space for legal criticism”, Tehran has added photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service Telegram to a growing list of blocked or banned online services.

These include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and various VPN services some Iranian netizens use to try and circumvent government censorship.

Telegram founder, Pavel Durov, took to the encrypted messaging service at the weekend to explain that the authorities had blocked it after he refused to comply with a request to shut down the channels of peaceful protesters.

This was despite Telegram blocking the @amadnews public channel after it began advocating violence against police.

“The admins of the channel reached out to us after the fact, apologizing for breaking our rules and pledging not to promote violence in the future. As a result, they have been able to reassemble most of their subscribers (800,000) in a new peaceful channel, which we welcomed”, he continued.

“Obviously, our neutrality and refusal to take sides in such conflicts can create powerful enemies. Iranian officials have filed criminal charges against me back in September for letting Telegram spread ‘uncensored news’ and ‘extremist propaganda’. Today they imposed a block on Telegram.”

The result of this heavy-handed approach seems to have been to drive more Iranian internet users to anonymizing browser Tor.

The service has seen users connecting directly from Iran jump from around 6000 to 10,000 in just a few days.

There have also been calls for Google to unblock Iranian access to its AppEngine, a platform on which encrypted messaging and group chat app Signal relies on to work.

Experts have claimed that Google could whitelist Signal in Iran without risking sanctions liabilities. Edward Snowden has also urged US politicians to put pressure on Google to do so.

Source: Information Security Magazine