US Says Iran’s Draft Internet Bill Aims At Censorship

The US State Department has criticized Iran over its plans to tighten Internet access and urged the government “to allow its citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression and to freely access information.”

The department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, which says it “champions American values, including the rule of law and individual rights,” tweeted Thursday that Tehran’s “Iran’s proposed User Protection Bill aims to further limit Internet access, increasing censorship and restricting free speech online.”

In February 18 members of an ad hoc parliamentary committee in Iran said they had ratified the outlines of a bill entitled ‘Legislation to Protect Cyberspace Users’ to regulate internet and social media access, only for the parliament’s Regulations and Bylaws Division to issue a statement that the committee had broken the law in ratifying a different version of the bill referred to it for examination and approval.

Iran has blocked websites and social media apps over the past two decades, but these are readily sidestepped with wide use of VPNs (virtual private networks) and other tools. Some social media users have alleged that problems with internet coverage in recent months are a trial run for a plan to curb internet access and social media. In February Speedtest global index ranked Iran 80of 138 countries worldwide for mobile internet connection, and 145 out of 180 for fixed broadband speed.

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