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To promote local platforms, Iran unveils plan for tighter internet rules.

Iran’s top internet regulatory body recently issued a significant directive aimed at reshaping how Iranians access and use the internet. The directive, reportedly backed by Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei, takes a firm stance against the use of VPNs, tools commonly used to bypass internet censorship in the country. Despite the longstanding ban on major social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, VPNs have remained a popular workaround for millions of Iranians seeking unrestricted access to online content.

The directive has stirred up considerable discussion online, with many expressing concerns about its potential impact on internet freedom. However, SCC Secretary Mohammad Amin Aghamiri clarified that the regulations primarily target state entities rather than ordinary citizens.

In addition to the VPN ban, the directive lays out strategies to encourage Iranians to use local online platforms instead of foreign ones. This includes incentivizing content creators and businesses to transition to local platforms within a six-month period.

Moreover, the directive prohibits legal entities from advertising on foreign platforms and mandates that government services be exclusively provided through local platforms within the same timeframe. These efforts align with Iran’s broader objective of establishing a “National Information Network” to promote homegrown digital platforms and reduce reliance on international services.

Another key aspect of the directive involves providing Iranians with technical means to access foreign services through “governable formats.” This could entail foreign platforms establishing representative offices in Iran or the creation of unblocked “shells” of foreign platforms. However, concerns have been raised about potential privacy and security risks associated with such arrangements.

These developments come against the backdrop of heightened internet restrictions in Iran following widespread protests, underscoring the government’s ongoing efforts to exert control over online activities. As Iranians adapt to these changes, the full implications of the directive on the country’s digital landscape remain to be seen.

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