Iran’s internet blackout enters fifth day as government claims victory over protesters

A gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration in Eslamshahr, near Tehran, pictured on November 17, 2019

Iran’s internet blackout has entered its fifth day as the government continues to restrict citizens’ access to the web amid protests over fuel price hikes.

According to internet mapping non-profit NetBlocks, Iran’s connection began to drop in the city of Mashhad on Friday evening local time. Disruptions “increased in extent and severity” to create a near-total shutdown across multiple cities in the early hours of Saturday, NetBlock’s data showed, with connectivity falling to just 4% of ordinary levels.

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On Thursday, the organization reported a slight increase in Iran’s connectivity, which rose to 8% of ordinary levels in the 113th hour of the blackout and increased to 10% shortly after. NetBlocks said it was “unclear if restoration will be sustained.”

Mapping data from U.S. tech firm Oracle also showed a significant drop in connectivity, which had flatlined since Saturday but was showing signs of a slight recovery.

Oracle told CNBC via email that its Internet Intelligence service had noticed a “partial restoration” of connectivity in Iran on Thursday afternoon London time.

Mass protests erupted in multiple Iranian cities after the government announced on Friday it would ration gasoline and raise prices by at least 50%.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International claimed it had evidence that at least 106 protesters had been killed by the Iranian government across 21 cities.

“Shutting down communications over the internet is a systematic assault on the right to freedom of expression and suggests that the authorities have something to hide,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement.

Iranian officials dismissed Amnesty’s claims as “disinformation” on Wednesday, according to Iranian news agency Fars, which also claimed that “hundreds of thousands” of government supporters had rallied across the country in response to the protests.

Speaking to state-funded broadcaster Press TV on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the nation had emerged “victorious” from the unrest, claiming that demonstrators “took action based on a scheme pre-planned by … the Zionists and the Americans.”

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