Reports of Iran’s regime intending to block the popular messaging app, Telegram, is the source of a variety of reactions. If Iran’s rulers had it their way this platform would be blocked as we speak after similar measures temporarily grounded the network following the January uprising.
Various Iranian officials have also expressed their belief that the internet must remain intensely monitored and filtered. This is part of a broad cyber-repression campaign led by Tehran, pushing users towards domestically-made apps that can be monitored by the regime’s security apparatus.
However, even Iranian President Hassan Rouhani posed to oppose such actions due to his concerns of its consequences.
Iranian media outlets are criticizing Rouhani, saying as the President he stands against blocking, while as chair of the Supreme National Security Council he orders such actions. The question is why did Iran lift its initial blocking after the quelling of recent unrests? The answer is simple: social pressures and international backlashes.
In Iran’s current powder keg society any issue can ignite a major movement. On December 28th an increase in the price of eggs sparked a major nationwide uprising. In a matter of just hours protesters were chanting “Death to Khamenei-Rouhani,” referring to the regime’s Supreme Leader and President, respectively.
To this day Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli acknowledges that these protests spread to more than 100 cities, 42 of which witnessed serious unrests. He also went on to confirm that an uprising can begin at any moment in Iran.
When a price hike can result in the most significant crisis for the Iranian regime since the 2009 uprising, rest assured blocking Telegram – used by over 40 million people across the country and the jobs of at least more than half a million people depend on this application – will generate extremely dangerous consequences.
Reactions of this announcement, made by Aladdin Borujerdi, chair of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, saying the decision was made at the highest level, obviously referring to Khamenei himself, are more than telling.
Aladdin Borujerdi, chairman of the National Security Commission said that @Telegram is "a threat to national security" Earlier he had said that by mid April this popular messaging app will be blocked in Iran on a decision taken @ the "highest level." read https://t.co/tfdLY5ib87 pic.twitter.com/ZTqYPEA2PL
— Alireza Jafarzadeh (@A_Jafarzadeh) April 1, 2018
“Blocking Telegram will not result in people shifting towards homegrown platforms. It will backfire,” said Iranian MP Farid Mousavi.
“This will distance the people further from the government,” added Gholamali Jafarzadeh, another Iranian MP.