Iranian cyberspace watchdog body to discuss blocking Telegram

Society Materials 17 November 2015 16:40 (UTC +04:00)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 17

By Khalid Kazimov - Trend:

Iran's Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content will discuss blocking the popular messaging app Telegram during its meeting on Nov. 18.

The meeting will be chaired by Prosecutor General Gholamhossien Mohseni Ejei, ISNA news agency reported on Nov. 17.

Earlier, an Iranian official from the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ministry told Trend that the mobile messaging app Telegram must prevent the publishing of "immoral" content in order to continue operating in Iran.

"If any social media networks, including Telegram, aim to continue their activities in Iran, they must observe our regulations, as well as red lines, and shut down any immoral pages," the head of the Public Relations Office at Iran's ICT ministry, Mohammad Reza Farnaghizadeh, said in an interview with Trend on Nov. 5.

Speaking about the recent remarks made by Pavel Durov, the head of Telegram, the official said Telegram has apologized for its allegations against Iran.

In a tweet on Oct. 20, Durov claimed he had turned down the Iranian ICT ministry's request to provide "spying and censorship tools."

Yet, in a later message posted on his Telegram channel on Nov. 4, Pavel Durov stated that he had received fake demands.

"The government denied that they required any kind of spying tools from Telegram, saying the demand I received was fake and not approved by any higher authorities," Durov wrote.

Reporting that the ministry was reviewing Telegram's activity in the country, Farnaghizadeh added that the company has announced it will follow Iran's regulations and shut down channels with immoral content.

"We are against blocking those social networks that follow our regulations," noted Farnaghizadeh, responding to a question on the possibility of applying "smart flirting" on Telegram.

"We have certain regulations, and we urge those networks active in Iran to respect our regulations," the official added.

The Iranian smart filtering system, which launched last December, is capable of detection of "inappropriate" content, including text, image and video online, and limiting access to them. The smart filtering system is a step from the existing filtering system in Iran that blocks the access to entire websites. Iran currently implements filtering systems to limit access to certain pages in Instagram.

Telegram, which functions as a messaging and content sharing application, has become popular in recent months among Iranians, who use it to communicate with each other and also share materials like pornography and political satire. Many of Iran 's government-controlled news agencies have also embraced the platform, using it to advertise their stories.

Currently, at least 13 million Iranians use Telegram, according to the Islamic Republic's communications and information technology ministry.

Although several Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif use verified Twitter and Facebook accounts, the popular social networks remain banned in Iran.

Iran's Culture Minister Ali Jannati earlier said that 9.5 million Iranians use the social app Viber and 4 million to 4.5 million use Facebook. Most Iranian web users have found ways to evade the state censors and get access to all sites via proxy tunnels and channels.

Following the 2009 post-election disputes in Iran, Tehran banned several social media platform including Video sharing service YouTube, Facebook and twitter.