State-Backed CDN Provider ArvanCloud Played Role In 2019 Iran Protests Crackdown

Iran’s Internet Blackout is one of the most common and low-cost ways for the Islamic Republic to curb nationwide protests and suppress protestors under complete mediatic silence.

The Islamic Republic’s authorities have repeatedly shown their considerable animus against freedom of expression since the revolutionaries took power in 1979. Additionally, their oppressor forces can easily quell demonstrators once the internet is deliberately shut down.

The 2019 Internet blackout in Iran, however, was a week-long but it was not the first time.

Smartphones are now ubiquitous in everyday life with approximately billions of users worldwide. Since their beginnings, smartphones have played a crucial role in Iran’s anti-government rallies as the protesters used mobile phones to organize, communicate and document what was happening,  while it was happening.

During 2009 mass protests, known as the Iranian Green Movement, with Internet shutdown, the Islamic Republic sought to limit protest outcry. Authorities choked off Internet access and warned journalists working for foreign media to avoid covering post-election events. That was the first attempt by Tehran to silence the protests by keeping the world in the dark.

Depending on the number of dissidents and the extent of protests, the authorities decided to use content-related censorship, to limit citizens’ internet access in the specific areas of the country, or to create the most wide-scale internet shutdown that happened in 2019, which was one of the rarest blackout people ever experienced in Iran. In November 2019, the Islamic Republic unleashed one of the world’s most sophisticated internet shutdowns.

Reports indicated thousands of Iranian protesters were wounded in November 2019 but they could not go to the hospital as they might have got arrested.

In 2019-2020, most of the so-called human rights organizations and biased journalists attempted to hide the real numbers or tried to turn the reality upside down. But, reports revealed an estimated number of casualties which counted about 3,000. Moreover, a recent story published by ICBPS indicates the death toll was more than 7,685.

Such a huge difference in the census of deaths in a short period of time is possible only by one thing: Wide-Scale Internet Shutdown.

This week, a shocking story went viral on social networks by the Iranian social media users that the state-backed ArvanCloud, which provided Content delivery network (CDN) and cloud service to Iranians was one of the sources that helped authorities to suppress the 2019 protests. The internet shut down was ordered by the Supreme National Security Council and imposed by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), under Rouhani’s cabinet.

The Cloud Services Provider Arvan Cloud (ابر آروان), which offers CDN, Cloud DNS, Cloud Security, Cloud Server, grew and developed under the so-called moderate Rouhani’s cabinet, working closely with ICT where is governed by one of Tehran’s top security figures, the telecommunications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi.

The reliable sources say ArvanCloud has a close affiliation with the FTO-IRGC and an official connection with the government.

“ArvanCloud allegedly provides technology to Tehran-backed proxies in the region.” Reliable sources speak ‘on condition of anonymity’

“ArvanCloud is one of the subsidiaries of IRGC-backed Mobin Net, owned by the “Cooperative Foundation of the Revolutionary Guards” and Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order.” Toronto-based Iranian dissident Ashkan Yazdchi wrote on his Twitter

Azari Jahromi interestingly opposes traditional censorship and calls it outdated because he believes in the “National Internet System” (National Information Network), which has nothing to do with the global internet network and will operate as “National Interanet”. The network will help the suppressive regime to spy on its citizens. It is a dangerous-powerful surveillance system capable of monitoring users if Tehran succeeds to run it.

The regime does easily shut down the internet with a single click to keep the world in dark with regards to the catastrophe happening in the country.

So far, it has been proven that Rouhani’s cabinet is the most dangerous government in terms of censorship, while everyone previously thought that  Ahmadinejad’s government was the most vicious one.

As the world’s worst abuser of Internet freedom, China has attempted to help Ayatollahs to create a “National Internet System”, which is often referred to as the “Filternet” due to wide-scale restrictions. The “cyber cooperation” is part of the one-sided Tehran-Beijing 25-year Cooperation Program.

Today, governments in the free world control the Internet to protect their citizens from real risks, but the Islamic Republic censors its citizens to continue its malicious activities.

The kleptocrats in Iran seek intelligence dominance, surveillance, the ability to intrude on users and monitor all citizens’ activities online.

The regime limits online content, censors websites, and bans social networks. When Mullahs are fearful during nationwide protests, like in 2019, they shut down the internet and order the security forces to curb uprisings with no hesitation by all means.

BY Kaveh Taheri and Avideh Rafaela Motmaenfar

Institute of Capacity Building for Political Studies, (ICBPS) publishes articles, analyses, and reports online with no limit. ICBPS has been founded by a group of journalists and activists to provide a great opportunity for those freedom fighters who are being censored by mainstream media.

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