If Telegram does not follow the Iranian authorities’ demands, the app will be “removed”, said Mohammad Reza Aghamiri, a conservative politician and member of Iran’s Filtering Committee, on February 15.
In an interview with Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, Aghamiri said that the Filtering Committee has demanded that Telegram transfer its servers to Iran. Failure to do so could have fatal consequences for the popular messaging app.
“If Telegram does not comply with Iran’s demands, it will be removed, not blocked,” Aghamiri said.
It is not clear exactly what Aghamiri meant by “removed”, but the wording could suggest that the authorities are planning to use other tools apart from traditional filtering to limit Iranians’ access to Telegram.
Many social networking platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, are already blocked in Iran. However, blocking content is politically costly, and it is often ineffective, as many Iranians bypass the firewall with VPNs and circumvention tools. So instead of directly blocking platforms such as Telegram, the Iranian authorities can choose to reduce internet speeds to make it more difficult for its many users to access and use the app properly.
The Filtering Commitee has according to Fars news agency also requested that Telegram cooperate with Iran’s cyber police.
“Telegram is very popular in Iran, which is why it can’t continue like this. Telegram must follow our rules; then we’ll allow it to be active in Iran,” Aghamiri said, and added that if Telegram ignores the demands, the committee will make sure the app “won’t be able to compete with other social media”.
Telegram, an encrypted messaging and content sharing application, has become popular among Iranians, who use it not only to stay in touch with friends and family, but also to share news and opinion — especially information that the authorities normally block, particularly during election time or when sensitive news breaks.
If Telegram puts its servers inside Iran it would allow the Iranian authorities to monitor and control Iranians’ communication and access to the app. According to Aghamiri, Telegram already cooperates “a bit” with Iranian authorities.