The Islamic Republic of Iran plans to punish social media users as a group of Iranian conservative lawmakers, who hold the majority in parliament, are working on a draft bill that could further restrict access to the internet.
The bill calls for “organizing social media” and the banning of virtual private network (VPN) software used widely by Iranians to bypass internet restrictions and blocks imposed on several social media websites.
The text also calls for jail terms of between 91 days and six months for anyone found guilty of violating the terms of the bill if it becomes law. Repeat offenders could also be fined and receive up to 30 lashes.
The bill also aims at banning altogether the use of foreign social media, forcing Iranians to use locally-developed networks that would help authorities control their content.
Approximately two-thirds of Iran’s 80 million population use VPN software to access restricted websites including but not limited to Youtube, Facebook, and Twitch.
This entire segment of the Iranian society will be deemed as guilty and punishable If the bill is approved.
But punishing cyberspace users is not the only means of controlling the Internet. According to another section of the bill, “the armed forces are to manage the internet.” In fact, in this part of the plan, internet management and monitoring are to be taken from the Ministry of Communications and be directly handed and fully available to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC).
Instagram and WhatsApp are the only social media services accessible in Iran, unlike Facebook, Twitter, and the Telegram messenger service which are officially banned.
And yet several Iranian figures use Twitter for official communications, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Parliament’s news agency ICANA on Sunday quoted deputy Ali Yazdikhah, a member of the commission of cultural affairs, as confirming the existence of a draft bill on internet use.
Source: France 24
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