Iran’s ban of Telegram messaging app sparks infighting.

Unlike previous efforts to block Facebook, Twitter and satellite TV, last Monday’s ban on the popular Telegram messaging app by Iran’s powerful judiciary is not going over quietly.

Telegram is a messaging service launched in 2013 that serves many Iranians as a kind of combination of Facebook and Whatsapp, allowing people inside the country to chat securely and to disseminate information to large audiences abroad. Until the April 30 decision, the application was widely used by Iranian state media, politicians, companies and ordinary Iranians for business, pleasure and political organizing.

Telegram is believed to have some 20 million users in Iran out of a total population of 80 million.

“Considering various complaints against the Telegram social networking app by Iranian citizens, and based on the demand of security organizations for confronting the illegal activities of Telegram, the judiciary has banned its usage in Iran,” the government said in a statement announcing the action.

The judiciary’s Culture and Media Court decision cited among its reasons the application’s use by “international terrorist groups” and anti-government protesters, and the company’s refusal to cooperate with Iran’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

Those who disobey, the statement said, “will be subject to criminal prosecution.”

Although the decision was announced by the judiciary, it was made “at the highest levels,” Iranian Parliament Foreign Policy and National Security Committee President Alaeddin Boroujerdi told Iranian media at the end of March, well ahead of the ban, seemingly a reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The move came after extensive public debate in Iran, some conducted via the messaging service itself, about the limits of free expression, government authority and access to information in the Islamic Republic.

Read the full story from 2018 in The Jerusalem Post.