In an attempt to quell mass protests across the country, Iranian Officials have blocked access since Dec. 31 to Telegram, an application used by activists to arrange anti-government rallies due to its end-to-end encryption functionality.
“Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down … peacefully protesting channels,” Telegram CEO Pavel Durov wrote on Twitter.
Iranian officials claim the situation is only temporary and Telegram was suspended because it was “encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprising, and social unrest,” tweeted on Saturday Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology.
“The rumors about the permanent closure of the social networks do not correspond to the reality. It seems that they seek to create social discontent and pessimism,” the minister wrote on his Twitter account, according to Tehran Times.
US President Donald Trump commented on Twitter that Iran “closed down the internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!”
“Big protests in Iran. The people are finally wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism,” Trump wrote. “Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”
Following an increase in internet censorship in recent years and the implementation of content control software, Facebook and Twitter have been blocked since 2009, and access is now restricted for YouTube and most top 500 websites as well. Despite Iran’s aggressive censorship, people have found alternatives to accessing the restricted websites. For example, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has a Facebook account. The number of Tor users has also increased to 10,000.
With over 40 million accounts in Iran alone, Telegram has been repeatedly criticized by US and European governments, which demanded access to user data to intercept communication between terrorists.