In a move that has been termed as a cautionary measure to protect national security, the Iranian Judiciary has banned Telegram, the popular instant messaging app. This was made public on Monday through the state television. However, it should be noted that this was not a decision made on a whim. This option has been under consideration since January, when there were a number of protests over economic grievances in over 80 cities, which later evolved into demonstrations against security and the clerical elite of the Islamic republic.
Based on this development in January, hard-line officials are convinced that telegram played a major role in helping the protesters organize these rallies. They were, however, contained finally by the Revolutionary Guards with the help of the Basij militia their affiliated volunteer. This led to the app being blocked, albeit temporarily in January. The state TV went on record to explain why this move was being taken:
Considering various complaints against the Telegram social networking app by Iranian citizens, and based on the demand of security organizations to confront the illegal activities of Telegram, the judiciary has banned its usage in Iran.
Telegram Fueling Protests in the Country?
According to the judiciary website Mizan, all Internet providers in the country were expected to take pertinent steps that would see Telegram’s website blocked by April 30th. It further noted that Telegram is to blame for the rise in anti-government protests as this platform is used to fuel emotions against the government. Some of the actions noted by Mizan include terrorist activities against the government, propaganda, smear campaigns against the establishment, pornography and spreading lies to incite the public.
This order comes hot on the heels of another directive that barred government bodies from using Telegram, an app that is clearly favored by politicians, state media, companies and the Iranian Public as a whole. Notably, the Iranian government seems to be focused on taking this route of imposing Internet filters on grounds that these sites are criminal or offensive.
VPN Comes to the Rescue
However, this is not to say that it is all doom and gloom for the Iranian public, with whom the app is so popular. Indeed, there appears to be a way to beat the system, thanks to the use of VPN software. Through this, Iranian Telegram users get encrypted links that are directed to private networks abroad. This means they can access the app from another country’s IP.
Domestic Alternatives Proposed
Telegram enjoys a massive following of about 40 million users in Iran. There have been calls from the country’s officials for Iranians to make use of other domestic alternatives instead. One of these alternatives is the Soroush App that mimics most of Telegram’s features. However Iranians are reluctant to consider these alternatives as they are sceptical of the government’s intentions. They say that the government may use such apps to spy on them.
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