Starlink to the aid of freedom of expression in Iran. The constellation deployed by SpaceX now has around 100 satellites ready to operate in the country, according to a statement by Elon Musk on Monday, December 26. A boost for Iranians who have been physically and virtually repressed for several months, after numerous clashes with the country’s security forces.
“Advancing Internet Freedom”
“Nearly 100 Starlinks [sont] active in Iran”, Elon Musk announced on Twitter on Monday, in response to a video tweet from Wall Street Silver about the situation in the country. In September, the businessman had assured that he would activate Starlink in Iran, in conjunction with the American authorities, in order to “advance internet freedom and the free flow of information”.
The arrival of the service allows Iranians to communicate more easily via the Internet, using the constellation of satellites operated by Starlink and SpaceX. To connect, on Earth, the user must have a reception kit and an active subscription. Starlink offers speeds close to a fiber offer, with higher latency.
For several months, the country has been plagued by a broad movement of protest against the strict religious policy of the authorities. But opposition to the mullahs’ regime crystallized in mid-September, after the death of Mahsa Amini. The young woman had been arrested by the morality police for “wearing inappropriate clothes”because she had not placed her veil correctly.
Since the tragic death of the student, demonstrations have multiplied in all cities of the country. A real civil society counter-offensive that does not please the authorities. In an attempt to disrupt the mobilization, officials of the Islamic theocratic republic have implemented extensive internet censorship in the country. Content is filtered and most social networks are inaccessible from the local Internet. Meta’s social networks are particularly targeted by blockages.
“In recent years, millions of Iranians have fallen below the poverty line, and further limiting access to platforms like Instagram only adds many more to that number. This has a disproportionate impact on women. 64% of Iranian businesses on Instagram are owned by women”deplores Reza Ghazinouri, strategic adviser for the defense group of human rights and civil liberties United for Iran, quoted by Wired.
To circumvent these digital restrictions, many activists had turned to VPNs. These tools allow an Internet connection to pass through a virtual network on servers located in another country. But, since the beginning of October, the Iranian authorities have managed to neutralize the VPNs one by one.
“We found that authorities consistently use sophisticated technology to hunt down one VPN after another; which makes it very difficult for Iranians to find a VPN that works”explained Mahsa Alimardani, of the British NGO for freedom of expression Article 19 to our colleagues from World. The possibility of establishing a Starlink connection, independent of the country’s infrastructures, to browse the web is a good alternative.