Just days ago, mass unrest broke out in Iran as society increased the rise in fuel prices. Most of these protesters were young, typically ranging from 19 to 26. As many protests do, this one began to grow outside of its inciting issue to encompass more deep-seated problems, namely frustration with the current regime. This frustration only intensified as Iranian security forces opened fire on crowds of unarmed young people who were participating in peaceful protests, and culminated in Iran shutting off the internet to over 80 million people.
This dramatic action raises questions concerning ethics and our own internet-dependence as a society. At this point in history, internet usage is so ingrained in our daily lives that its removal may constitute the removal of a right rather than a pleasure. Access to the internet provided by a country should be characterized as a right. Without it, people within the country have no means of contacting other people across the globe. Without this, there are no people from the global community to check the government’s actions or put a stop to other abuses of power. It also blocks people from communicating with their family, friends, and coworkers.
Many countries are attempting to further create internet infrastructure that would allow them to have the same complete control over the internet that Iran just exercised. China engineered its infrastructure with this goal in mind, and countries like Russia have been retrofitting networks and implanting technical devices in order to give them greater control over the internet. In countries like Ethiopia and Iraq, technological blackouts like the one that just occurred in Iran have become the norm.
As the world becomes more and more technologically integrated, it is crucial that actions are protested that we believe infringe upon human rights, even when those human rights are something as abstract and intangible as internet access.