Iran has seen a rising wave of anti-government protests, ministers have accused social media of fueling this activity. Following this, Telegram and Instagram appear to be being blocked in Iran. Yesterday, Iran state TV said that authorities were temporarily blocking the services to “maintain peace”, according to the AP news agency.
BREAKING: Iran state TV says authorities temporarily block Instagram, messaging app Telegram to `maintain peace’ amid protests.
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 31, 2017
Few days ago Iran’s ICT minister, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi tweeted directly at Telegram founder Pavel Durov — claiming that a channel in Telegram “is encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprisings, and social unrest” He then urged Durov to “stop such encouragements via Telegram”.
@Durov: A Telegram channel is encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprising, and social unrest. NOW is the time to stop such encouragements via Telegram.
— MJ Azari Jahromi (@azarijahromi) December 30, 2017
In a post on his Telegram channel yesterday, Durov said the authorities had “imposed a block on Telegram”, adding that it is “not clear whether permanent or temporary”.
He also confirmed that Telegram admins had suspended the channel that Jahromi had been objecting to — naming it as @amadnews — but claimed this was as a result of the channel admins having broken Telegram’s terms of service rules by “calling its subscribers to use Molotov cocktails and firearms against police”.
Durov responded to Jahromi’s earlier tweet:
Calls for violence are prohibited by the Telegram rules. If confirmed, we’ll have to block such a channel, regardless of its size and political affiliation.
After the suspension of @amadnews, Durov writes that the channel admins were able to “reassemble most of their subscribers (800,000) in a new peaceful channel, which we welcomed” — he also apologized for breaking Telegram’s ToS and pledging “not to promote violence in future”.
In Iran, Telegram has a large user base, According to Durov, last year the platform has over 40M monthly active users, surprisingly this amounts to around half the population of the country, and 25M daily active users. Iran’s government has also been targeting Telegram channel administrators, channels with more than 5,000 members are required to register with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Telegram is a non-profit cloud-based instant messaging service for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows NT, macOS and Linux. Users can send messages and exchange photos, videos, stickers, audio and files of any type.
Telegram was founded by the Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov. Its client-side code is open-source software but the source code for recent versions is not always immediately published, whereas its server-side code is closed-source and proprietary. The service also provides APIs to independent developers. In February 2016, Telegram stated that it had 100 million monthly active users, sending 15 billion messages per day. According to its CEO, as of April 2017, Telegram has more than 50% annual growth rate.