Iran's Government Officials Debate Over Telegram App Ban

Iranian government officials are reportedly debating a possible move to permanently ban Telegram’s messaging app over national security concerns.

According to local news outlet Al-Monitor, the discussion about banning Telegram, which is widely used in Iran, originally stemmed from both a desire to support local apps, as well as national security concerns due to the fear that the app could be used in future protests.

Telegram was temporarily shut down during the protests in January of this year. However, some 10 percent of users reached it through proxies and VPN services. The protests began in late December and continued into 2018, initially focusing on the government’s economic policies but developing into expressions of opposition to the theocratic regime. The nation-wide ban was lifted when the momentum of the protests died down.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of Iran’s Parliament National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said the move to ban the app was a decision made at the highest levels, and Telegram will be replaced by a domestic app. He added that he hopes Iranian-made messaging apps like Soroush will replace Telegram when it is blocked eventually.

In a notice filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, Telegram said it raised an additional $850 million in its preliminary, non-public initial coin offering (ICO), pushing its cryptocurrency totals collected to $1.7 billion. The company plans to use the funds to develop a blockchain platform aimed to decentralize aspects of digital communication and which will be powered by its own “gram” token.

Hassan Firouzabadi, secretary of the country’s High Council for Cyberspace, approves the suggested ban due to Telegram’s potential for bringing cryptocurrency to all of its Iranian users. He said the company’s dominance in Iran was “the enemy of the private sector.”

“Telegram never [agreed] to have an office in Iran and refused to work with the private sector,” said Firouzabadi. “Telegram is not a dominant messenger in any country except for Iran. … Telegram has officially announced that it will be used as an economic platform, and Telegram will undermine the national currency of Iran.” Telegram recently announced plans to set up its own blockchain platform and native cryptocurrency. We cannot allow [Telegram’s virtual] currency to enter the country.”

Firouzabadi added that he sees the lack of regulation around cryptocurrency as one of the problems with letting Telegram continue to function in the country.

“We predict that this [virtual] money’s lifetime is 10 years, and during this period, approximately $50 billion will be withdrawn from the country,” Firouzabadi said. “But if the price of [this virtual money] declines overnight, people will protest [and ask] why there wasn’t any monitoring of it.”

In response, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a meeting with high-ranking state officials that the country is not planning to ban Telegram. Instead, Iran will be introducing homegrown messaging applications that are aimed at putting an end to Telegram’s monopoly on messaging in the country.

“Nobody is opposed to breaking Telegram’s monopoly [in Iran], but blocking Telegram is not the solution for creating [and enhancing] local messaging applications,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani added that having strong, secure and cheaply priced Iranian messaging applications that can solve people’s needs and problems will surely make everyone proud.

“The goal of creating and enhancing Iranian software and messaging apps should not be blocking access [to other apps], but [the goal] should be the elimination of monopolies.”

Recently, Iranian MP Mohammad Reza Badamchi said that banning the app would eliminate 200,000 jobs and disrupt the financial situation of about half a million people. Telegram currently has more than 40 million users in the country, and many e-commerce small businesses depend on the popular messaging app to sustain and expand their operations.

Source: Read Full Article

Leave a Reply