Iran, a Middle Eastern country of some 81 million people, is making moves against social networks and messengers, which provide people with an opportunity to communicate without censorship. Iran bans Instagram and Telegram, an image sharing network owned by Facebook and a popular messenger created by the founder of Vkontante, a popular social network. Perhaps, the Iranian regime has learned the lessons from the Arab Spring, whereas the revolutionaries communicated through messengers and social networks.
According to the AP, a news agency, the state TV of Iran notified about the temporary stoppage of the services in the country, imposed by authorities in order to “maintain peace” in Iran. While this country saw a number of active protests at the beginning of 2018, many Iranian ministers blamed social media for causing and fomenting dissent.
Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, an ICT minister of Iran, tweeted directly to Pavel Durov, the founder of Vkontakte and Telegram. He claimed that one of the channels available on the platforms encourages hateful conduct, social unrest, armed uprising, and the use of Molotov cocktails. He also urged the founder of Telegram to act and take all possible measures in order to stop the encouragement of such behavior via Telegram.
As Iran bans Instagram and Telegram, Durov tweeted that the Iranian authorities had imposed a ban, yet it remains unclear whether it is a temporary or a permanent block. On the other hand, Durov said that the administrators of Telegram have blocked the @amadnews channel, which was pointed to by the Iranian ICT minister. However, Telegram’s CEO said that it was the result of the behavior of the admins of that channel, who urged to use firearms and Molotov cocktails against the police.
Iran bans Instagram and Telegram in an attempt to silence critics of the regime after an uprising took place
Durov also responded to the tweet by the ICT minister of Iran by saying that any calls for violence are prohibited by the policy of Telegram. Therefore, any such content will be deleted and the channel be blocked, regardless of the political affiliation. Regarding the @amadnews channel mentioned above, the founder of Telegram said that the admins of that channel managed to reassemble a channel and promote their content in a peaceful manner, and he welcomed it. The admins of that channel sworn not to promote violence anymore. Neither Instagram nor Telegram commented this ban.
Telegram has an especially strong presence in Iran, whereas it has there 40 million of active users – approximately half of the country’s population. Moreover, 25 million of Iranians used Telegram every day. But Iran has been always tough on Telegram, since Durov refused to move the company’s servers there, fearing of censorship and prosecution of Iranians. Thus, Iran has imposed a rule that admins of the channels with over 5,000 subscribers must register at the Ministry of Cultural and Islamic Guidance. Otherwise, they risked to be prosecuted.
Previously, Durov refused to block certain channels and accounts on demand of Iranian authorities.