Andrei Lipov, head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications (Roskomnadzor), met with Iranian telecoms minister Issa Zarepour to discuss internet regulation and telecoms collaboration

Over the weekend, the head of the Russian telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor reportedly met with the Iranian telecoms minister to discuss “issues related to the internet”.

The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss ‘the protection of children online’, according to a statement from the Iranian government, which said it had valuable experience in this area to share with Russia.

The discussions also included collaboration around spectrum strategy, including potentially sharing spectrum to boost the quality and speed of internet services.

Finally, the duo discussed how they could best align their positions within the International Telecoms Union (ITU).

Lipov is also expected to meet with Amir Lajevardi, Iran’s deputy minister of ICT, this week, “to discuss opportunities for increased presence of Iranian telecoms companies in the Russian market”.

Russia and Iran both have terrible records when it comes to internet freedoms, including a long history of censorship and even internet blackouts.

Since 2012, Russia has maintained a centralised internet blacklist, known as the ‘single register’, overseen by Roskomnadzor. Over the years, the scope of the sites included on the single register has expanded from a focussing on drug use and pornography to encompass numerous social media sites, including both Facebook (Meta) and Twitter in 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In 2019, the government also initiated plans forcing the country’s telecoms network operators to install equipment allowing them to separate the Russian internet ecosystem (Runet) from the wider internet if ordered to do so by the government.

Iran’s internet censorship, meanwhile, is even stricter, blocking numerous major social media sites, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, Snapchat, Reddit, Medium, Instagram, and Threads. The government has also repeatedly shut down access to the internet completely during times of civil unrest, including during the 2019 fuel protests and the Mahsa Amini protests in 2022 and 2023.

Both Russia and Iran argue that they are under digital attack by the West, claiming that social media sites are being used to fuel unrest and anti-government sentiment.

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