Iran allegedly blocks Instagram, Telegram

Getty Images for TechCrunch

Getty Images for TechCrunch

Those words proved prophetic Sunday, as Durov himself wrote on Twitter that Iran blocked the app "for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down. peacefully protesting channels".

Iran state TV said yesterday that authorities were temporarily blocking the services to "maintain peace", according to the AP news agency. Iran has been dealing with an increasing wave of anti-government protests that started a few days ago. Not the first time though-Facebook was banned in 2009 by the Iranian government after protests erupted following the reelection of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The ICT minister urged Durov to act and stop such encouragements from going on.

A presentation by tech expert and human rights activist Mahsa Alimardani at last week's 34C3 conference on internet censorship in Iran and related topics can be found below.

Many of Iran's anti-government protesters have been using apps like Telegram and Instagram to organize. The messaging app stated that the decision to suspend the channel didn't come because of the pressure from Tehran but because it had violated Telegram's terms of service.

Durov, in turn, responded to Azari Jahromi's tweet: "Calls for violence are prohibited by the Telegram rules". Durov noted that there was evidence to suggest that the channel was calling on protesters to use Molotov cocktails against the police. After years of diplomatic pressure, United States companies face significant regulations on any technology exported to Iran, and it's often unclear how those rules extend to cloud services like AppEngine. Durov said that channels that promote violence will be closed regardless of the political affiliations that they stand for. Most of the people subscribed to the channel were able to move to a new "peaceful" channel, Durov wrote.

While authorities ban social media websites like Facebook and Twitter and censor others, Telegram users can say almost anything. In countries where they are otherwise banned, messaging apps that encrypt conversations often use the Google App Engine to hide their activity within Google's traffic.

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Why this matters: Telegram is a major platform for information in Iran and counts more than 40 million users among the country's 80 million people.

"Iran's own strict regime of internet filters, but also US sanctions limiting the transfer and sale of technology and security products, are likely contributing factors that mean the choke points are still an effective mechanism for mass control", Toker said.

Media censorship in Iran is a fact of life.

In other words, Iranian censors are clearly trying to suppress knowledge of how large (and in some cases violent) the protests have become, as well as disrupt the protesters' ability to organise. Reports from inside the country claim that the government began blocking Internet access on December 30 in an attempt to prevent protesters from communicating with each other.

It is still unclear as to how long the Iranian government intends to continue restricting internet services.

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