Iranian authorities introduced a ban on Telegram messaging app following anti-government protests that lasted for about a week since December 28, 2017. Photo:AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran lifted the ban on messaging app Telegram Saturday night, according to Iranian media.
The Iranian semi-official news agency, ILNA, reported the lift and the country’s communications minister, Mohammed Jawad Azeri, has confirmed it.
The Associated Press spoke with people from several Iranian cities and all of them confirmed that the ban is no longer in place.
Iran shut down both Telegram, which has over 40 million users in the country, and the picture-sharing app Instagram in late December after anti-government protests spread across the country.
Some of the demonstrations turned violent and at least 22 people died in connection to the protests. Iranian officials said the rioters were using both apps to spread unrest in the country.
Responding to the initial block, founder and CEO of Telegram Pavel Durov explained that they had suspended the account of one channel that had violated its non-violence rules.
He condemned the complete block on the app, however, saying they would “rather get blocked in a country by its authorities than limit peaceful expression of alternative opinions.”
About 100,000 people lost their jobs because of the social media restrictions, according to President Hassan Rouhani, as companies who used the apps for sales and marketing were hit by the block.
Authorities restored access to Instagram on January 6.
The two apps have a large number of users in Iran where authorities have been increasing their control over the internet, according to a recent report from the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Iran developed and controls the National Internet Network (NIN), made a faster and cheaper service to draw in users, “which gives the government newly expanded abilities to control Iranians’ access to the internet and monitor online communications,” CHRI stated.
Under NIN, Iran is able to separate international internet traffic from domestic use, meaning authorities can cut Iranians off from the world while permitting access to state-approved sites.
NIN allows authorities to “filter and manipulate online content” and could be used to identify users or hack accounts, CHRI reported.
On Friday, the United States, which had vocally supported the anti-government protesters, introduced new sanctions on Iranian individuals and personalities, including some cyber and communication agencies accused of censorship.
“We are targeting the Iranian regime, including the head of Iran’s judiciary, for its appalling mistreatment of its citizens, including those imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and for censoring its own people as they stand up in protest against their government,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained.