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Bobby Ghosh

Iran Is Crushing What’s Left of Internet Freedom

New legislation would ban VPNs and restrict access to Instagram, choking the country’s burgeoning e-commerce sector.

Tightening control.

Tightening control.

Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Iranians like to boast that their forebears built a great wall 1,000 years before the Ming Dynasty. Known as the the Red Snake for the distinctive color of the mud bricks used, it had a more sophisticated design and sturdier construction than the later Chinese version. But they served the same purpose: to keep out foreign invaders.

The current rulers in Tehran can’t claim any substantive achievements ahead of their counterparts in Beijing, but they do share the same paranoia about foreign influence. So, Iran is hoping to replicate China’s so-called Great Firewall of digital and legislative barriers, as much to pen its own people in as to bar outsiders.