The social media program “Telegram” is being blocked across Iran, according to Iranian news outlet Mashregh News. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Iran’s Chairman for the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, said the the decision was made “at the highest level,” and it said that it was due to concerns with national security. The article said that the app had a “destructive role” in the crises of last year. Essentially, by the end of the month the encrypted messaging app will no longer be available for Iran and its citizens.
The crises Boroujerdi was most likely referring to were the protests that began in late December, 2017, and were largely organized by the Telegram app. The protests sought to bring light to the suffering economy, staggering unemployment rates, rising prices of oil despite oil-rich reserves, and the people carried picket signs that said things like “death to the dictator.” As the protests progressed and grew in size, protesters were dependent on social media apps to manage those amounts of people that quickly. Instagram and Telegram were some of the primary platforms — the country wound up putting a temporary block on those apps. Still, a portion of Telegram users continued their app usage via proxies.
Amidst the turmoil, the anti-hijab movement blossomed, protesting the strict dress codes that govern the women of Iran. Under the banner of #WhiteWednesdays, they have gained steam over social media, which has turned out to be a tool for rapid spread of information, including material that may inspire other women to join their cause. However, it seems that the government is taking a hard stance against such apps.
By the end of the protests, almost 5,000 people had been arrested and up to 25 people had been killed. The government was able to justify and authorize the blocking of the app, claiming they found violent threats being used, including the use of explosives on government property and personnel. They would lift these blocks on Jan. 13, 2018, and now seek to make it permanent.
Blocking social media and other forms of modern information flow is another step toward what many have called a “Halal Internet.” A Halal-net would mean strict control of access and usage, adhering to religious, Islamic law. An internet like this would follow the “walled garden” principles, meaning it would act more like a closed system — Xbox Live and Amazon Kindle’s eReaders are on such a closed network for their own purposes, but to have an entire country’s internet, closed off and controlled like that, by one central authority — it would certainly close off the population from today’s primary source of information flow, the open internet. It seems that Iran is moving forward to make a Halal Internet a reality.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.