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Telegram Messenger app blocked in Iran

Popular messaging app Telegram Messenger was blocked in Iran for a full two hours, following a week’s interference, according to the app’s founder Pavel Durov. Durov tweeted Tuesday that “Iranian officials want to use Telegram to spy on their citizens. We cannot and will not help them with that.” The Iranian Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) had demanded that Telegram provide them with spying and censorship tools, according to Durov, who said he ignored the request, prompting the Iranian government to block access. When a Twitter user asked for further proof of the exchange, Durov replied that he had emails from an @ict.ir email address, the official domain for the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology website in Iran. Iran’s ICT denied receiving any orders to block Telegram, suggesting instead technical problems were to blame. Telegram users across Iran have reported on the outage throughout the day. The Foreign Desk has reached out to Telegram for comment. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard began tracing Internet activity in the aftermath of the 2009 Green Revolution and in 2011, police forces formed the Iranian Cyber Police, or FATA, solely to counter Internet crimes. The committee overseeing criminal Internet activity includes from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani`s cabinet. Ironically, Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and many other regime officials have become active on Twitter and Facebook and communicate globally through these platforms. Over the last few years, Iranians have become accustomed to accessing mainstream social and information sites through third-party proxies in order to circumvent restrictions and avoid government surveillance. Global Voices, a citizen media site reported in August that Telegram had “agreed to restrict some of its features in Iran at the request of the Iranian government.” This included porn and the posting of any content considered critical of the government including satire and cartoons. In total, Telegram boasts 60 million active monthly users and over 12 billion messages sent daily and differs from other similar messaging apps with cross device synchronization and the ability to transfer large files up to 1.5GB in size. But where its developers believe the app is most unique is its ability to encrypt messages end-to-end. Telegram has twice offered a cash reward, most recently $300,000 in a contest earlier this year, baiting contestants to decipher secure messages. Telegram states on its website that there have been no winners so far.
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