Amidst ongoing protests in Iran, messaging app Telegram and ephemeral picture sharing app Instagram have both had their services suspended by authorities in that country. Not quite of a surprise that, but it’s an action that has drawn reaction from the US government.
Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said on Tuesday that the United States wants Iran to “open these sites,” per the New York Daily. Describing the activities of Instagram and Telegram as “legitimate avenues for communication,” Goldstein called on Iranian authorities to restore the services of the two social networking apps.
The Iranian government hinged its decision to block the messaging apps on security. According to state-run media, the move was encouraged by the need to “maintain tranquility and security of society.”
Apparently, authorities in that country followed that line of action in response to widespread protests ongoing in Iran. Not the first time though—Facebook was banned in 2009 by the Iranian government after protests erupted following the reelection of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Reacting to the widespread protests on Twitter, the US president Donald Trump said:
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”
In a statement published on his Telegram channel on Tuesday, Telegram founder Pavel Durov wrote:
“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.”
Duron is in no mood to back down, and has vowed to continue to support freedom of speech even in the face of crackdown by government. He took readers down memory lane—highlighting the criminal charges filed against him last September.
“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.”
Blocks, suspensions and threats of outright bans are nothing new to Telegram. The app has a long history of being on the wrong sides of government authorities—Russia, Indonesia and the rest.
Last July, the messaging app bowed to pressure from authorities in Indonesia as it agreed to block all terrorist-related content. This came on the heels of threat issued by authorities in that country, threatening to block the chat app from being able to carry out its services.
Durov said the company would get rid of all channels related to ISIS that were flagged by the government. He also promised that the company would work to improve its services by developing a better system.