Iran has curbed access to Meta Platforms’ META.O Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the last remaining social networks in the country, amid protests over the death of a woman in police custody, internet watchdog NetBlocks said on Wednesday.
Last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”, has unleashed anger over issues including freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions.
WhatsApp’s servers have been disrupted on multiple internet providers, hours after Instagram’s services were blocked, London-based NetBlocks said.
The group’s data shows a near-total disruption to internet service in parts of Kurdistan province in west Iran since Monday, while the capital city of Tehran and other parts of the country have also faced disruptions since Friday when protests first broke out.
Protests have been particularly intense in Kurdistan where Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has a history of suppressing unrest. Iran’s minister of communications said earlier on Wednesday he had been misquoted after news outlets cited him as saying the authorities might disrupt internet services for security reasons.
Social media websites such as TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are routinely blocked in parts of the Islamic Republic, which has some of the strictest internet controls in the world. But tech-savvy residents bypass curbs using virtual private networks (VPNs).
Meta and Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk said on Monday the company will ask for an exemption from sanctions against Iran to provide Starlink satellite broadband service in the country.