Iran, Like Russia Before It, Tries to Block Telegram App

There have since been reports, so far unverified, that Mr. Azari Jahromi has resigned.

On Tuesday, some users of Telegram in Iran said they were still able to communicate through the app over their home internet connections. In the confusion, several websites that are usually freely accessible — including Wikipedia and Google — were hard to reach.


Russians Protest Government Effort to Block Telegram App

Thousands of Russians are taking a bold stand against the Kremlin’s efforts to block the popular encrypted messaging service, which refused to give the state access to users’ messages.

By CAMILLA SCHICK on Publish Date April 30, 2018. Photo by Alexander Nemenov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

Iran is not the only country trying to block Telegram. Two weeks ago, Russia obtained a court order to shut down the service after its founder, Pavel V. Durov, refused to provide the security services with the keys to read users’ encrypted messages.

Iran, Like Russia Before It, Tries to Block Telegram App
Iran, Like Russia Before It, Tries to Block Telegram App

To date, Moscow’s efforts have been thwarted as it continues a cat-and-mouse game with the company, and thousands of Russians demonstrated on Monday in a show of support for Telegram.

In Iran, the battle over the app has become something of a litmus test for Mr. Rouhani, whose popularity has dropped significantly since his re-election in May last year. During his campaign, he promised to deliver more freedoms, to provide greater employment opportunities and to get the country’s notorious morality police off the streets. He has largely fallen short of those goals.

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“Mr. President, none of your promises were realized, and preventing Telegram from being blocked is your last stronghold,” a journalist named Nahid Molavi wrote on Twitter.

Telegram is widely used in Iran, for activities as varied as chatting, booking appointments at beauty salons, selling cars or finding partners. Even the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had his own channel until recently. Such channels, which sometimes draw hundreds of thousands of users who receive instant messages at the push of a button, played a major role in spreading videos of nationwide protests in December.

On Monday, Iran’s judiciary issued a decree ordering internet service providers to block access to the Telegram app, as they have already been doing for years for Facebook and Twitter.

Many people manage to bypass the state’s firewalls by using virtual private networks, or VPNs. But such software requires a lot of bandwidth, and they often significantly slow internet access.

In recent weeks, government institutions had already begun taking down their Telegram channels, urging people to switch to Iranian applications such as Soroush. But many Iranians chose not to follow the guidance.

Follow Thomas Erdbrink on Twitter: @ThomasErdbrink.

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