Iranian lawmakers have authorized running a pilot for an internet restriction plan aiming to limit the activity of foreign social networks in Iran, sparking harsh criticism as the country continues to plunge into consecutive crises ahead of the new government’s takeover next week.
Parliament has decided to refer the controversial plan to an internal committee preparing to pass a bill that would block Iranians from accessing major social media and messaging websites.
The bill, officially called “protecting the rights of cyberspace users,” aims to limit the activity of foreign social networks in Iran, especially Instagram, which has not been blocked so far.
Legislators had authorized the Joint Specialized Commission to approve a pilot plan.
The Commission includes representatives from parliament’s cultural commission, the national center for cyberspace, the information and communications technology ministry, Revolutionary Guards intelligence services, the police, and civil defense.
Moreover, the plan will likely be finalized after it gains approval from the Guardian Council, an appointed and constitutionally mandated 12-member body that wields considerable power and influence in Iran.
With 121 votes in favor, 74 against and nine abstentions, Iranian parliamentarians agreed to submit the plan to Parliament’s Cultural Commission, per Article 85 of the Constitution.
This article allows parliament to adopt specific laws in its internal committees in necessary cases, without discussing them in a plenary session and subjecting them to a vote.
The plan will criminalize the use of some social media platforms and messaging apps, as well as bypass programs (VPNs) to access blocked sites. This means that violators could face prison time and fines.
Moreover, authorities will require the Ministry of Communications to allocate half of the quota of external messaging and communication networks to Iranian networks. Foreign networks must also apply to operate in Iran.