Iran signals crackdown on encrypted apps in attempt to reduce foreign influence

Iran signals crackdown on encrypted apps in attempt to reduce foreign influence

Following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s condemnation of the messaging app Telegram earlier this week, an Iranian nationwide ban on the

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Photo: Al Jazeera

Following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s condemnation of the messaging app Telegram earlier this week, an Iranian nationwide ban on the service may be implemented today.

With other social media apps banned, the all-in-one platform is the last resort of 40 million Iranians—nearly half the country. Despite its popularity, both Khamenei and reformer President Hassan Rouhani denounced its use just days after Russia blocked the app over its refusal to provide access to users’ messages.

Iranian officials claim foreign platforms like Telegram represent a security threat and have called for completely domestic platforms instead. Critics however accuse the crackdown of being a response to January’s protests, some of which were organised through the app.

Because many young people are accustomed to bypassing government censorship through virtual private networks, protests are unlikely to be reduced. Indeed, banning such a popular app may cause further unrest. The coming ban may also be the product of hard-liner influence on the state—it could be a ploy to significantly reduce the chances of reformers, who rely on Telegram-like apps to reach their constituents, from being elected president come 2021.

 

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