While thousands of protestors were flooding the streets, and engaging in violent clashes with security forces which resulted in the deaths of more than 20 people, the Iranian government suspended all use of social media and messaging apps that would enable protestors to organize or distribute information about what was occurring to the rest of the world.
After Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013, Iran’s National Internet Network (NIN) expanded. The government can now view users’ personal messages and their search history. This power is dangerous, especially when wielded by an authoritarian government, especially their ability to shut off citizens’ right to organize.
Iranians found ways to organize in spite of the crackdown. However, the government found loopholes, and shut them down.
This sort of surveillance and authoritarianism is chilling to the Western world. This amount of government control is unthinkable in the United States. Still, Title II rules implemented in America classified broadband as a public utility gave the government oversight of the internet.
The FCC voted recently to roll back the rules — a move that was met with considerable public backlash, even though it is possible that Title II rules could enable a very similar climate to what the Iranians are experiencing.
In her article for News Max, Christie-Lee McNally, the founder of Free Our Internet, says that the Iranian government’s actions, such as limiting access to social media, communications apps, and access to broadband in general, are threats that are similar to those posed as Title II. Despite good intentions, “Title II rules opened up a whole slew of possibilities for government abuses of power,” she writes.
The political unrest and the Iranian government’s efforts subsequent crackdown and control of the internet provides a case study regarding the perils of centralized internet control. McNally writes, “A decentralized internet keeps what has become our most critical means of communication democratic. Fears that the more than 400 internet service providers in the United States would, in the absence of Title II rules, use their collective power to wreak havoc on American citizens are completely unfounded and little more than scare tactics from the left.” She adds that one need look no further than the recent uprising in Iran to see that government ability to control the internet is harmful to its citizens.