Iran is planning to criminalise the sale of virtual private networks (VPNs) used to bypass internet restrictions, a minister said this week.
At the moment selling anti-filtering tools is unauthorised, but not a criminal offence. However, Telecommunications Minister Issa Zarepour has said: “Efforts are being made to criminalise this issue."
This issue isn’t a new one. AFP reports that last year local media reported that a draft bill was planned that could further restrict internet access. The bill calls for "organising social media" and the banning of VPN software used widely to bypass internet restrictions and blocks imposed on social media platforms.
The text also reportedly calls for the jailing of anyone found guilty of violating the terms of the bill if it becomes law.
Recently imposed restrictions include blocking access to Instagram and WhatsApp – the only remaining unfiltered social media services – and clamping down on apps like the Google Play Store, as well as VPNs.
These apparently came hard on the heels of demonstrations after the death of a 22-year-old arrested for allegedly violating the country's strict dress code for women.
As regular readers will know, VPN restrictions have been very much in the news of late, not least in India, where a number of VPN companies have ended local operations after a directive mandating VPN companies, and others, to maintain basic information about customers.