According to Mizan Online, the judiciary’s news agency, Iran’s judiciary banned the hugely popular Telegram, on Monday. A judge in Tehran gave “the order to interrupt Telegram,” Mizan Online reported.
Earlier this month, after the messenger app concluded the second round of its record-setting $1.7 billion ICO to develop a full-service block chain ecosystem, Government officials publicly called for Telegram to be banned. The secretary of the government’s High Council for Cyberspace, Hassan Firouzabadi, warned that the company’s new cryptocurrency will undermine the local economy if left unchecked.
Recently, a presidential directive banning all government workers from using foreign messenger apps to communicate was announced.
Authorities have accused Telegram of allowing armed opposition groups to fuel unrest, during the protests that hit dozens of Iranian cities across the country at the start of the year. At that time, Telegram was temporarily banned for enabling so-called foreign-based “counter-revolutionary” groups to stir tensions.
Following those protests, authorities have begun to develop Iranian social media networks and limit reliance on foreign-based platforms. Tehran accuses some hosting sites of being hostile to the Islamic Republic. Services similar to Telegram have emerged in recent months on Iranian platforms, such as the Soroush network, which claims to have five million subscribers.
In mid-April Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani both announced that they would stop using Telegram. Khamenei’s final message on the Telegram channel directed users to accounts on Iranian messaging services, including Soroush and Gap.
Reportedly, the tribunal in Tehran accused Telegram of “inciting rebellion” and allowing “terrorist groups” to threaten national security.
Citing the judge’s decision, Mizan Online wrote that all internet providers and phone operators now have “a duty to completely block access to Telegram.” They added that those disobeying the order will be considered in violation and face prosecution.
Interestingly, Iran’s telecoms minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi’s said on Tuesday that it was “impossible to block citizen’s access to information.” Jahromi’s comments on Twitter highlighted differences of opinion between the government of reformist President Hassan Rouhani and ultra-conservatives who control the judiciary and security services. “Even if we ban the use of software, other software will be found and information will start to circulate freely again,” according to Jahromi. “Technology is not intrinsically guilty, corrupt, or deviant,” he added. “It is human beings who misuse it to promote crime and corruption in the virtual world, just as they do in real life.