Iranians fighting to overcome government censorship of Instagram and WhatsApp are reportedly seeking out virtual private networks in overwhelming numbers.

Demand for virtual private network apps has skyrocketed over 3,000% in Iran, researchers said, following Iranian authorities’ attempts to block in-country access to WhatsApp and Instagram on Sept. 21. The government’s latest censorship efforts come in response to the surge of protests which have continued throughout the country over 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in the custody of morality police.

Independent researchers at Top10VPN measured an overwhelming spike of more than 3,000% in demand for VPNs — which are routinely used to circumvent internet censorship efforts. Researchers measured the spike from Sept. 22 to Oct. 3. 

A chart from researchers at Top10VPN shows daily VPN demand increases in Iran compared with the average daily demand for VPNs over the 28 days prior to Sept. 21, 2022. Top10VPN

“Demand for VPN services to circumvent the social media blocks rocketed by 2,164% on Sept. 22 compared to the 28 days prior. VPN demand rose further still in the following days, peaking at 3,082% higher than before the protests on Sept. 26,” Top10VPN’s Head of Research, Simon Migliano, said in a research update this week. 

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