Yesterday Telegram and Instagram, the two most popular social media apps in Iran got blocked in the country. Are these restrictions temporary? Read this article to find out more.
On Sunday, December 31st around 3 pm local time (Tehran), Telegram and Instagram became inaccessible in some regions in Iran. During the first few hours the three mobile operators in Iran, Hamrah-e Aval (MCI), Irancell and Rightel blocked these services while these apps were still accessible via landline home internet services. Later in the evening, other ISPs also blocked these two apps.
The restrictions over Internet activities in Iran is mainly under the authority of a governmental body called the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, however, Cyber Police and Judiciary have some jurisdictions in special cases. In the recent years, Iranian authorities have stated that the overall policy of the country is to allow free access of internet services unless they are promoting violence, pornography, potential threats to the citizens and national security.
Migrating to other messaging apps
After Telegram’s restrictions, Iranians either used the app through proxy servers or migrated to other messaging apps such as WhatsApp and a number of other local applications. At the same time, WhatsApp’s servers were facing some issues due to New Year’s heavy traffics which led to Iranian users assume that this service is also facing restrictions by the Iranian government.
Currently, Iranian authorities are encouraging the citizens to use local messaging apps such as Soroush and BisPhone. We tried using Soroush messaging app, but this app was also facing server issues for some time probably due to the high amount of traffic by the new wave of its users. A major problem which makes Iranians to use these local messaging apps is their lack of features comparing to giant competitors such as Telegram and WhatsApp. Not having sufficient high-standard data centers in the country that can guarantee low latency and downtime is another major issue for the developers in Iran.
Is this a temporary restriction?
A few hours after Telegram and Instagram became inaccessible in Iran, Iranian officials announced that these restrictions are temporary and will be continued until further notice.
Currently, thousands of Iranians are using Telegram and Instagram as their primary business platform. Notice that we said “business platform” not a “marketing tool’’. That means thousands of online retailers, news sources, entertainment channels and individual influencers are using these platforms as their primary source of income and have generated thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Iranians. With the high unemployment rate in some cities of Iran, the restrictions over these applications won’t make things any better.
Additionally, there are no local versions of these apps in Iran that can provide a service as good as Telegram and Instagram. Even right now that these apps are blocked, Iranians are using these services with proxy servers and VPNs and the popular channels over Telegram are operating without a hitch.
There were some rumors about the restrictions on Telegram and Instagram to remain permanent. However, a few hours later in a tweet, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology confronted these rumors by saying that Telegram isn’t blocked permanently and the purpose of the individuals behind these rumors was to create “social discontent and general pessimism” among the people.