The bill calls for “organizing social media” and banning virtual private network (VPN) software widely used by Iranians to bypass internet restrictions and blocks imposed on several social media sites, according to Etemad.
In recent days, Iranian netizens have expressed concern over the bill proposed by some conservative lawmakers, who have held a majority in parliament since 2020.
The text also provides for prison terms ranging from 91 days to six months for anyone found guilty of violating the terms of the bill if it becomes law, according to Etemad.
Repeat offenders could also be fined, receive up to 30 lashes and be “deprived of their civil rights”, according to the newspaper.
He accused the lawmakers behind the project of acting against “the most basic rights of citizens” and against “freedom of expression and freedoms of the media”.
Etemad said the bill also aimed to ban the use of foreign social media altogether, with Iranians ending up with locally developed networks that would help authorities control their content.
Instagram and WhatsApp are the only social media services accessible in Iran, unlike Facebook and Twitter and the Telegram messaging service which are officially banned.
And yet, several Iranian personalities use Twitter for their official communications, including the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Parliament’s ICANA news agency quoted Congressman Ali Yazdikhah, a member of the Cultural Affairs Committee, on Sunday as confirming the existence of a bill on Internet use.
But he told the agency that the bill targets companies that develop VPNs, “not users”, and also lamented “the lack of control in cyberspace.”