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Iran blocks Internet, messaging apps in crackdown on protests

Protesters clash with police during a demonstration over the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Wednesday. The Iranian government has restricted Internet access in the wake of the protests. Photo by EPA-EFE
Protesters clash with police during a demonstration over the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Wednesday. The Iranian government has restricted Internet access in the wake of the protests. Photo by EPA-EFE

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Iran's government on Friday blocked access to the Internet and messaging apps in a deepening crackdown on protests triggered by the death of a young woman who had been detained by the morality police.

In nearly 90 cities and towns, protesters have taken to the streets and even confronted the security forces. At least 26 people have died during the demonstrations, which erupted after the death 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.

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Cloudflare said Friday mobile networks had suffered a "full shutdown" on the heels of a nationwide blackout on Wednesday. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram were also affected.

Bloomberg, quoting an unnamed Tehran resident, reported mobile Internet had been blocked for the last few days and Wi-Fi has been severely cut or restricted, though access appeared to be improving slightly. Many virtual private networks, or VPNs -- which hide a user's location and can be deployed to look at sites that are banned based on geography -- are blocked, as is Google.

To support the protesters, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced Friday that it was issuing Iran General License GL D-2, an updated guidance to expand Internet service to Iranians. The new license addresses Internet freedom issues, such as adding covered categories of software and services including social media platforms and video conferencing.

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"With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government's efforts to surveil and censor them," Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the press release.

Billionaire Elon Musk has also said that he will seek an exemption to sanctions so that he can connect people using the Starlink satellite network, which beams broadband directly between thousands of satellites in low-Earth orbit and small, ground-based terminals.

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