Hardline supporters of the legislation have faced a setback but are unlikely to abandon the bill.
Tehran, Iran – A controversial surprise vote by Iranian lawmakers on progress on the internet restrictions bill has been invalidated, but supporters are still expected to move forward with the legislation.
Hours after the outlines of the so-called “protection law” were approved at a controversial meeting of 19 lawmakers on Tuesday, Parliament’s Bylaws Department canceled the vote.
She said in the late hours of the night that the meeting and voting – which took place despite Parliament’s directive that all reviews must be halted when Parliament focuses on the budget bill – were invalid.
Voting on the bill was delegated and reviewed to a specialized committee after its supporters invoked an article in the constitution that allows for some bills to be referred to these committees, which will have the power to ratify and implement legislation “experimentally.”
But after Tuesday’s vote, which was broadcast live and faced a massive backlash online, the only lawmaker who voted against the bill made an attempt to get it back for a vote in Parliament.
Jalal Al-Rashidi wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning that his petition to remove the legislation from the Specialized Committee has so far received 130 signatures – out of 290 deputies – and more are participating.
Supporters of the bill, who maintain that its goal is to protect residents from harmful online content and support local businesses, have repeatedly said they would like it to be completed before the Iranian calendar year ends on March 20.
Opponents of the legislation believe it will place significant new limits on online freedoms in Iran while stifling competition and harboring corruption through a myriad of permits and new government funding.
Lotfullah Sikali, a spokesman for the specialized committee, told state television on Tuesday evening in response to concerns that the legislation would prevent the survival of global services such as Instagram and WhatsApp.
Reza Taqibour, who heads the specialized committee on the bill, was defiant on Wednesday and said he would oppose canceling the vote because he believed it did not conflict with the regulations.
He said, “I also see that some media said that this coup refers to the termination of the law, and it is just malicious and malicious media behaviour.”
The most popular global services and websites including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Telegram in Iran are being filtered, prompting Iranians to use VPNs to circumvent restrictions. But the bill also aims to criminalize the distribution of VPNs through prison terms and fines.
Moreover, internet speeds – especially connections to global services and those using VPNs – have slowed dramatically in recent months, raising concerns that some elements of the bill are already in the works.
This was denied by government officials and lawmakers supporting the bill, who asserted that the slowdown in connection speed was due to increased demand and because the administration of former President Hassan Rouhani had not sufficiently developed the infrastructure.
A review of the legislation, which was first introduced three years ago, was temporarily suspended by its hard-line supporters in July 2021 after an overwhelming backlash from the public, the business community and even government officials.
An online petition to cancel it got more than 1.1 million signatures last year. Online backlash against the bill has been steady ever since, continuing after Tuesday’s vote, with several related hashtags circulating.