As latest protests over authorities extremism and financial instability in Iran heated up on the flip of the brand new 12 months, the federal government shut down cell and net networks on December 30, chopping off residents from apps like Telegram and Instagram used to prepare and share info.

It was the most recent within the Iranian authorities’s assault on the free web. Past and current administrations have been ramping up web censorship for years now, making a state-controlled nationwide community, based on a brand new report by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a US-based advocacy group.

The National Internet Network (NIN) was introduced again in 2011, below President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was proposed as a “halal” community—the federal government claimed it was moral and protected for religious Muslims—in addition to a device for quick and accessible web. And in 2012, the nation’s supreme chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, additionally created the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, a 27-member committee, to observe and management the web and dissemination of knowledge.

By the time the NIN formally launched in 2016 below present President Hassan Rouhani, who ran on a platform of web entry, web usership in Iran grew from round 77.4 million folks in 2015 to 80.2 million folks now, based on the report. But getting extra Iranians on-line got here with the heavy value of limiting web freedoms.

It was proposed as a “halal” community

The NIN can filter key phrases and phrases and ship customers solely to the websites it accredited, based on the CHRI report. The authorities has additionally restricted entry to hundreds of web sites and platforms, together with Facebook and YouTube. It is trying to exchange search engines like google like Google with its personal state-approved variations.

Iran has additionally been in a position to affect how folks use the web via pricing. While there are personal web service suppliers (ISPs), they’re nonetheless below authorities management, permitting state-run infrastructure corporations to arrange a tiered plan the place entry to worldwide web websites prices greater than home. This drives site visitors away from the worldwide web and to the NIN.

“The NIN is quicker and cheaper as a result of the federal government needs to isolate Iranians from non-state accredited content material,” Amir Rashidi, web safety and digital rights researcher at CHRI, advised me.

President Rouhani has touted the upper speeds that Iranians can now entry due to his insurance policies. And his administration has thwarted efforts from extra excessive hardliners to fully shut down apps like Telegram, a cloud-based messaging app. But he and web minister Mohammad Jahromi have been largely silent about censorship, and have restricted entry to safe messaging apps like Signal and

It’s not simply web censorship that Iranians are dealing with. The report additionally highlights state-sponsored cyberattacks and phishing schemes. State safety companies just like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a department of the armed forces meant to guard the Islamic system, have hacked into particular person and personal on-line communications and arrested folks on the idea of their content material, which is technically unlawful below Iranian legislation.

“If you’re a dissident or an activist in Iran, you should be very cautious the way you conduct your communications and what you say, as a result of somebody might at all times be watching,” Rashidi mentioned.

DDoS assaults, which goal to make particular web sites unavailable or restrict entry to info by flooding them with illegitimate site visitors, have change into extra distinguished throughout politically delicate instances as properly, based on the report. During the election in 2016, reformist and centrist candidates like Gaam-e Dovvom confronted a number of assaults. The report mentioned many of those are additionally inner assaults via the federal government.

Read More: Young Iranians Are Demanding Internet Freedom This Election

These assaults and safety breaches are poised to change into much more frequent as Iran consolidates the web additional. New laws require all Iranian web customers to have a single identifier to entry the web, cell phones, and different gadgets, permitting the federal government to entry a log of all their actions. International human rights group, Freedom House, ranked Iran second to final for web freedom in 2016 (the final was China).

Meanwhile, Iranians are usually not blind to the in depth surveillance they’re dealing with on-line. As we’ve reported, many web customers use VPNs and different apps to attempt to circumvent the censorship. And tens of millions of Iranians have turned to the Toronto-born Psiphon app to make use of the web in the course of the protests in December and this month.

“Iran’s censorship insurance policies have resulted in a good portion of the inhabitants not trusting something the federal government says or does with the web,” Rashidi mentioned.

This article sources info from Motherboard