For Ali Hedieloo, who makes wooden furniture in Iran’s capital, Instagram is more than just a surfeit of glossy images. Like an estimated 1 million other Iranians, it’s how he finds customers, as the app has exploded into a massive e-commerce service in the sanctions-hit country.
But now, the social media platform has come under threat. Iran moved last week toward further government restrictions on Instagram and other apps, as hardline lawmakers agreed to discuss a bill that many fear will undermine communication, wipe out livelihoods and open the door to the banning of key social media tools.
“I and the people working here are likely to lose our jobs if this bill becomes effective,” said Mr. Hedieloo from his dimly lit workshop in the southern suburbs of Tehran, where he sands bleached wood and snaps photos of adorned desks to advertise.
The bill has yet to be approved by Iran’s hard-liner dominated parliament, but it is already stirring anxiety among young Iranians, avid social media users, online business owners, and entrepreneurs. Iran is a country with some 94 million internet devices in use among its over 80 million people. Nearly 70% of Iran’s population uses smartphones.
Over 900,000 Iranians have signed a petition opposing the bill. The protest comes at a tense time for Iran, with Ebrahim Raisi, the former judiciary chief and hardline protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, assuming the country’s highest civilian position this week. Journalists, civil society advocates, and government critics have raised the alarm about the possible increase of social repression once he takes office.
The draft legislation, first proposed this spring by conservative lawmakers, requires major foreign tech giants such as Facebook to register with the Iranian government and be subject to its oversight and data ownership rules.
Source: CS Monitor