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06/17/2021 Iran (International Christian Concern) –  A proposed Iranian bill on cyberspace regulation has been tabled ahead of the upcoming presidential election on June 18. The bill would further restrict Iranian’s internet and social media access, as well as allow for increased government oversight and monitoring of civilian use and the operation of the platform online.

The proposed bill would require communication platforms, such as messaging and social media applications, to register within three months of the law’s passing, set up a supervisory board including members of Iranian intelligence, and foreign companies would have to have an Iranian company as their legal representative.

Iranians who circumvent blockages to access restricted or blocked sites could face increased fines or imprisonment under the new potential law. This poses a significant risk to the underground church in Iran, which widely uses the internet for communication and outreach, particularly with coronavirus regulations in place. Though the church already faces scrutiny and online monitoring, the new bill would bring greater government control and access to investigate any incident deemed a threat to national security.

When the first draft bill of the cyberspace regulation was first introduced in August 2020 by 40 members, 170 parliamentarians signed on. Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raeesi, considered a front runner, promised free internet to all Iranians. But as a hardliner candidate with an already conservative parliament, the ability to freely utilize online platforms looks bleak.

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