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Psiphon, a Toronto-born app, has seen a 1,650% increase in downloads. Image: AP Photo A Toronto-born app has become a go-to tool for millions of Iranians looking to break through Tehran’s repressive internet censorship. “Over the last week, Psiphon saw unprecedented app downloads and usage across our network from all platforms in Iran,” Irv Simpson, who works in development for Psiphon, told Motherboard. That uptick has come with a five-fold increase in the amount of data going over the Psiphon servers. Read More: Iran’s 'Smart' Instagram Censorship Isn’t That Smart Psiphon won’t know all the details of just how many users were actively using the app until it audits the data later on, but Simpson estimates that—at its peak—usage hit eight to 10 million users in Iran. For the popular encrypted messaging app, for example, it's unclear whether the state will continue to block its use or whether, as the hardliners propose, they will create their own platform they can more readily control. That is, it is not a tool designed to mask or hide a user’s traffic, per se. “There are some really stable circumvention tools that Iranians have been telling me about,” Alimardani said. She’s not releasing the names of those apps, “as the strength of this tech sometimes lies in not being publicized.” Psiphon was developed inside the Citizen Lab, a part of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. The lab, and the school, has spent years devising various ways to improve civic engagement in Iran, especially online, with some financial support from the Canadian government.

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Psiphon, a Toronto-born app, has seen a 1,650% increase in downloads.

Justin Ling
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Justin Ling

Jan 9 2018, 1:00pm

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On Dec. 30, 2017, a university student attends a protest in Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by Iranian police. Image: AP Photo

A Toronto-born app has become a go-to tool for millions of Iranians looking to break through Tehran’s repressive internet censorship.

Now just over a decade old, firewall circumvention app Psiphon is arguably the most easy-to-use and effective way to bypass state internet control. In recent weeks, it has become a popular way for protesters in Iran to break through the regime’s “filternet,” blocking entire websites and apps for the country’s 80 million citizens and sometimes cutting off internet altogether.

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Since protests cropped up across Iran at the end of 2017, Psiphon reports that its usage has skyrocketed.

“Over the last week, Psiphon saw unprecedented app downloads and usage across our network from all platforms in Iran,” Irv Simpson, who works in development for Psiphon, told Motherboard.

Simpson broke down the numbers: On an average day, the app, available for Windows, Android, and iOS, is downloaded some 35,000-40,000 times. From New Year’s Eve until January 3 of this year, the app was hitting 700,000 per day.

That uptick has come with a five-fold increase in the amount of data going over the Psiphon servers.

The vast majority of this increased activity has come from Iran. Psiphon has tabulated a tenfold increase for mobile usage from the Middle Eastern country over the same four-day period.

Read More: Iran’s ‘Smart’ Instagram Censorship Isn’t That Smart

Psiphon won’t know all the details of just how many users were actively using the app until it audits the data later on, but Simpson estimates that—at its peak—usage hit eight to 10 million users in Iran.

The huge spike in usage comes as Tehran tries to take out other apps, like encrypted messaging platform Telegram. The Centre…

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