DUBAI — Iran was bracing for a renewed wave of protests Thursday, one day after authorities reportedly disrupted mobile internet access across the country.
Iran’s authorities have restricted mobile internet access in several provinces, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday, following a trend of social media posts and messages from relatives of those killed in unrest last month calling for more protests and ceremonies to commemorate the dead.
State media, meanwhile, said intelligence ministry agents had seized a cache of 126 mostly U.S.-made guns smuggled to the central city of Isfahan from abroad.
The protests were initially sparked in November by hikes in gasoline prices but demonstrators quickly expanded their demands to cover calls for more political freedom and other issues.
The government, which launched the bloodiest crackdown on demonstrators in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic, blamed foreign enemies for stoking tensions.
An official denied any order by the authorities to block the internet, which was shut down for about a week in the November unrest. A news agency also cited mobile operators saying their services had not been disrupted.
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The semi-official news agency ILNA quoted an informed source at the Communications and Information Technology Ministry as saying mobile internet access to overseas sites was blocked by “security authorities” in Alborz, Kurdestan and Zanjan provinces in central and western Iran and Fars in the south.
“According to this source, it is possible that more provinces will be affected by the shutdown of mobile international connectivity,” Reuters reported the ILNA as saying.
Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said on Twitter: “Confirmed: Evidence of mobile internet disruption in parts of #Iran …real-time network data show two distinct drops in connectivity this morning amid reports of regional outages; incident ongoing.”
The shutdown appeared to be spreading.
“I just checked myself and asked a friend, and the internet is off on our mobiles,” a resident in Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-producing Khuzestan province, told Reuters.
But a communications ministry spokesman denied there was an order to shut down the internet. “No such order has been issued by the judiciary or other relevant authorities. The Fake News are at work,” Jamal Hadian said in a Twitter post.
Iran’s three mobile operators also denied experiencing any internet disruptions, the YJC news agency reported.
In Alborz province, one of the areas affected by the shutdown, authorities this week arrested the parents of a young man who was shot dead during the protests, after pressuring them to call off a commemoration for their son scheduled for Thursday, citing concerns it could create unrest.
The weapons seized in Isfahan included assault rifles, handguns and pellet guns, the state news agency IRNA said. “Most of the weapons carry USA badges and are American-made,” it added.
The internet blockage made it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to generate support and also to obtain reliable reports on the extent of the unrest.
The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s communications minister last month for his role in “widescale internet censorship,” a reference to the nationwide shutdown.
Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign foes — the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia — for stirring up unrest through social media.
During the protests, hundreds of banks and public buildings were attacked and damaged.
Australian regulator 'concerned' about Facebook's approach to media law – Reuters
SYDNEY, Oct 25 (Reuters) – The Australian regulator behind a law forcing large internet platforms to negotiate licencing deals with media outlets said on Monday he was “concerned” about Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) cooperation, seven months after the rule took effect.
Under the News Media Bargaining Code, the social media giant and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google must negotiate with news outlets for content that drives traffic to their websites or face possible government intervention.
“Google is still negotiating and finalising deals with more news media companies and seems to be approaching this exercise in the right spirit,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.
“We are concerned that Facebook does not currently seem to take the same approach.”
Since the controversial law was passed in March, Facebook and Google have struck licencing deals with most of Australia’s largest news outlets, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NWSA.O) and the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
But some smaller publishers say Facebook, in contrast to Google, has declined to negotiate with them.
Academic publisher The Conversation and foreign language broadcaster SBS were both denied discussions. As reported first by Reuters, Facebook said in an email to publishers in September it had concluded deals to pay Australian companies for content on its “Facebook News” channel. read more
Facebook was not immediately available for comment on Monday. The company told Reuters in September that content deals were “just one of the ways Facebook provides support to publishers” and it continued to have discussions about alternatives. read more
The media law allows for the government to intervene if a platform fails to negotiate with a media company, a condition that has not yet been invoked.
Sims said a planned federal government review of the law next year would “examine closely the performance of all parties and whether the government’s expectations have been met”.
Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Jane Wardell
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
‘Dune’ Opens to $40 Million at the Box Office. Strong Enough for a Sequel?
“Dune,” an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, opened to $40.1 million at the North American box office. It’s a respectable start given the ongoing pandemic and the film’s unconventional theatrical debut. In addition to playing in 4,125 domestic theaters, “Dune” (like all Warner Bros. movies in 2021) premiered simultaneously on HBO Max, which might have taken a chunk out of overall ticket sales.
In a milestone for the studio, “Dune” landed the biggest three-day tally for Warner Bros. since the company began its day-and-date strategy on HBO Max. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which scored a then-pandemic record $31 million in April, previously held that high-water mark. In the months in between, anticipated movies such as “The Suicide Squad,” the LeBron James sports comedy “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and the musical adaptation of “In the Heights” failed to live up to box office expectations while being offered concurrently on HBO Max.
“I’m smiling,” Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein said on Sunday morning. “Exhibitors are thrilled. The best part is, fans are loving what they’re seeing. They’re loving the big-screen experience. It’s been a winner of a weekend for movie-lovers.”
Directed by Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049” and “Arrival”) and starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin, “Dune” is the first chapter in an expected two-part saga. Villeneuve and the cast of the movie have said they would like to make the follow-up to complete the story about warring political dynasties that clash over access to a vital planet. The question now: will ticket sales to start be enough to justify a sequel? Given the film’s hefty $165 million price tag, including the millions spent to market it as a cinematic event, it’s unclear if box office revenues alone will be enough to warrant a return to the desert land of Arrakis. In that case, “Dune” will have to perform very well on HBO Max to convince the studio it should inject another $165 million to complete the star-studded interplanetary tale. Legendary Pictures co-financed “Dune” in addition to producing and developing the movie.
In an interview with Variety this week, WarnerMedia chair Ann Sarnoff said plans for the sequel will be based on “the entirety of what ‘Dune’ can do for the company, including HBO Max.” She added, “The story in itself sets up for a sequel. The production is so amazing and the storytelling is so compelling that it’s not going to be judged on box office alone.”
Avid fans of Herbert’s seminal 1965 novel sought out “Dune” on the biggest screen possible, with premium formats such as Imax, Dolby and 4DX accounting for 50% of domestic ticket sales. Imax alone contributed $9 million, representing 22.5% of the market share, marking the company’s largest opening weekend since the pandemic.
Also new to theaters this weekend, Disney’s animated adventure “Ron’s Gone Wrong” tanked with $7.3 million from 3,560 cinemas in North America. The family movie, centering on socially awkward middle schooler Barney and his malfunctioning robot friend (Zach Galifianakis), has been well received by audiences (it has an “A” CinemaScore), which could be a promising sign for its theatrical run. Despite playing only in theaters, “Ron’s Gone Wrong” placed fifth on box office charts behind holdover titles “Halloween Kills,” James Bond entry “No Time to Die” and comic book adaptation “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”
In a distant second place, Universal’s slasher sequel “Halloween Kill” collected $14 million in its second weekend in theaters, plummeting 71% from its opening. It has generated $73 million in North America to date, a win for the $20 million-budgeted horror film. Already, the studio has announced that franchise star Jamie Lee Curtis will return for the follow-up “Halloween Ends,” scheduled for Oct. 14, 2022.
MGM’s “No Time to Die” landed at No. 3 with $11.8 million, boosting its domestic total to $120 million. Sony’s “Venom” sequel secured forth place, bringing in $9.1 million between Friday and Sunday. After four weeks, the anti-hero adventure, starring Tom Hardy, has made $181 million.
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