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Iran’s Internet Filtering Harmed More Than 100,000 Businesses

A photo showing an IRGC cyber control operations center. Undated.

Iran's Association for Online Commerce (AOC) says hundreds of thousands of online businesses have suffered serious losses due to the filtering of social media.

Many Iranians use social media such as Instagram and messaging app Telegram as a platform for advertising and selling products, and these businesses have been negatively affected by the recent filtering, AOC secretary Reza Olfat Nasab, said on January 8.

In response to the recent anti-establishment protests across Iran, the government slowed down the Internet and blocked access to social media. Protesters had used social media to organize demonstrations and post videos of the events.

"Around half a million online businesses, including several high-tech companies, have been suspended due to the filtering," Solmaz Sadeghnia, deputy president of the association, told ISNA. Many of these businesses belong to single mothers and were “destroyed overnight,” she said.

The protests have since receded, and the government has at least partially restored access to social media. Filtering on Instagram has been fully lifted, while latest reports from Iran indicate that Telegram’s filtering will also soon be lifted.

On January 8, President Hassan Rouhani confirmed the negative effect of filtering on more than 100,000 businesses and criticized his conservative rivals, who favor stricter censorship of Internet and accused them of misusing the circumstances.

He justified the temporary filtering of social media due to security reasons but added he would not approve the requests of those who want to restrict Internet access permanently.

Previously, Iranian Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi had apologized on Twitter to those who had suffered losses due to the restrictions on Telegram and Instagram.

Due to political concerns, the Iranian regime has restricted access to most social media websites, including Facebook and YouTube. Telegram and Instagram are among the exceptions. Currently, around 40 million Iranians (half of the population) use Telegram, and more than 7 million are Instagram members.