Using a VPN May Be a Crime Under Strict New Iran Internet Law

Using a VPN May Be a Crime Under Strict New Iran Internet Law

If a proposed new bill becomes law, using a VPN may become a crime in Iran.

The development, reproduction, or distribution of VPN and proxy services is punishable by up to two years in prison under Article 20 of the proposed Protection Bill.

Moreover, according to Article 21, Internet service providers (ISPs) who allow unauthorized foreign services to access Iranian users' data may face up to ten years in prison.


Picture: securitygladiators


On March 17, the international human rights organization Article19, along with more than 50 other organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Access Now, urged Iranian authorities and those in bilateral dialogue with the country to press the Iranian parliament to repeal the ''User Protection Bill.''

"We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations, are disturbed by the Iranian parliament's intention to ratify the main outlines of the draconian Regulatory System for Cyberspace Services Bill, formerly known as the User Protection Bill," the letter states.

"If passed, the Bill will violate a wide range of human rights in Iran, including the right to free expression and privacy."

We encourage the Iranian authorities to remove the Bill in its entirety immediately."

According to human rights organizations, the Bill will make Internet shutdowns and online censorship more common and less transparent.

Foreign tech companies operating in Iran, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, will be required to comply with all provisions of the Bill, appoint a representation within the country, and give the identity and history of their users' actions upon government request. Platforms that do not comply with the government's proposals will face bandwidth limiting and bans.

Gabriele Racaityte, Head of Public Relations at VPN business Surf Shark, expressed particular concern about sections of the Bill that bring Iran's gateways under the authority of the Secure Gateway Taskforce.

"This means that all information will be subject to the scrutiny and restriction of local authorities, resulting in Iran's gradual withdrawal from the global Internet. Such governmental moves match the current scenario in Russia," she explains. 

The Impact Of The Protection Bill On Iranian Society

Iranian authorities have been using Internet shutdowns to limit information flow within the nation for several years.


Picture: iranprimer


Restrictions tend to be maintained, particularly during governmental repression, such as the brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in 2019. The Protection Bill appears to be exacerbating the problem.

"Over the last seven years, we have recorded 14 internet interruptions in Iran, some of which lasted for days," Racaityte stated. People have linked most outages to political or sociological events such as elections, referendums, and protests.

"Internet shutdowns, social media blockage, and online censorship will be even easier to impose under the Bill than they are now."

Such a measure might have far-reaching consequences for society, given that authorities are already using shutdowns of social media platforms and the Internet to influence public sentiment and freedom of expression."

Like China's Great Firewall, the censorship engine works alongside its National Information Network. The Iranian government owns a version of the Internet. It can track down all stuff shared between users in this location.

Furthermore, all material originating outside the network must be approved by Iranian authorities.

These bans are also likely to harm the economy. Take, for example, Instagram. Because Iranians do not have access to more extensive e-commerce networks, the photo-led platform is mainly used by local merchants. Citizens have learned to avoid these stumbling blocks under this light.

VPNs are one of the most popular ways for Iranians to circumvent website and social media limitations. As a result, the new criminal charges governing the usage of VPNs may have a chilling impact on anyone attempting to circumvent government censorship.

Despite this, Surf Shark data shows that the country's overall numbers of paid VPN downloads are lower than the global average. "Our sales doubled following the vote to ratify the Internet bill on February 22, but overall figures remain low," Racaityte remarked.

It could be due to an already complicated position for utilizing VPNs within the country, as highlighted by PureVPN. "The internet is slow in Iran, and app stores are mostly prohibited, making it impossible for customers to download a VPN program once they arrive," they explained. We recommend manual service configuration through the SSTP protocol for Iranian customers."

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Paul Syverson
Paul Syverson
Paul Syverson is the founder of Product Reviews. Paul is a computer scientist; he used to carry out a handful of significant studies which contributed to bringing in many special features on the site. He has a huge passion for computers and other tech products. He is always diligent in delivering quality writings to bring the most value to people. |