Iran Blocks Instagram and Telegram Apps Temporarily in Effort to Decrease Violence Amid Protests

Government leaders in Iran have temporarily blocked access to the messaging and social media applications Telegram and Instagram. Reports state that the apps were being used for coordination and execution of plans for demonstrations. Protests initially started a few days ago and was focused around income inequality.

An unknown spokesperson stated that the blocking of the social media platforms was “in line with maintaining peace and security of the citizens.”. “With a decision by the Supreme National Security Council, activities of Telegram and Instagram are temporarily limited.” the source stated.

Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, tweeted about the situation on Sunday:

Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down  and other peacefully protesting channels.

Telegram does have policies in place that deter calls for violence and hateful content, and had already blocked some channels for violations of these terms. Durov then posted an announcement on Telegram to follow:

Happy New Year, everyone! 🎉
I hope you enjoyed the Telegram product updates this December. Stay tuned – we are going to make 3 big announcements in January.

On a less joyful note, Iranian authorities started blocking Telegram in Iran today after we publicly refused to shut down channels of peaceful Iranian protesters, such as @sedaiemardom.

We are proud that Telegram is used by thousands of massive opposition channels all over the world. We consider freedom of speech an undeniable human right, and would rather get blocked in a country by its authorities than limit peaceful expression of alternative opinions.

When it comes to freedom of speech, Telegram is as unrestricted as a mobile app can get. In 2015, after Apple and Google reached out to us in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, we added the simplest Terms of Service theoretically possible in an app: no calls for violence, no porn and no copyright infringement on public broadcast channels.

Since then, Telegram has been blocking hundreds of violent public channels daily (including those reported in @isiswatch), making sure our rules are applied equally and fairly to all players, regardless of their size and political affiliation.

Yesterday we had to suspend @amadnews, a public channel that started calling its subscribers to use Molotov cocktails and firearms against police. The admins of the channel reached out to us after the fact, apologizing for breaking our rules and pledging not to promote violence in the future. As a result, they have been able to reassemble most of their subscribers (800,000) in a new peaceful channel, which we welcomed.

Obviously, our neutrality and refusal to take sides in such conflicts can create powerful enemies. Iranian officials have filed criminal charges against me back in September for letting Telegram spread “uncensored news” and “extremist propaganda”. Today they imposed a block on Telegram – not clear whether permanent or temporary.

And yet, doing the right thing is more important than trying to avoid having enemies. We’re extremely lucky to have been able to consistently apply our principles in 2017. We will continue doing it in 2018 – and beyond.

Durov stands by the applications use for planning peaceful protest, and would rather have countries block the use of his app than play a role in limiting the freedom of expression.

Instagram has not yet responded to comment.



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