Popular messaging app blocked in Iran after creator refuses to turn spy

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Photo: Quixotic54/Flickr CC
Lotf Allah Mosque, Iran.
Photo: Photo: Quixotic54/Flickr CC

The maker of Telegram, a popular messaging app, has had his creation blocked in Iran on the grounds that he refused to help authorities to spy on their own citizens.

Creator Pavel Durov said that Iran’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology asked him to provide them with “spying and censorship tools” for the service. When he refused, Telegram was quickly given the boot.

The head of PR for Iran’s communications ministry has denied some of these claims by telling the country’s semi-official news agency that there was no attempt to filter Telegram — although the app is definitely no longer available in the country.

Earlier this year, Iranian officials decreed that tech companies could only offer their apps if they respect Iran’s “cultural rules and policies,” and did not aid in the sharing of “immoral content.”

Telegram, while relatively obscure in the U.S., was one of Iran’s most popular apps on the basis that it was thought to br secure for users — especially ones wanting to discuss political issues.

It’s another illustration of the kind of problems companies like Apple are likely to face if they push into markets like Iran. This summer, it was reported that Apple has been in touch with potential Iranian distributors about the possibility of selling its products. Government data shows that Iran’s 80 million residents have an affinity for Western brands, despite the difficulty in securing many of them.

Apple’s pro-privacy stance might make this relationship a difficult one, though. Tim Cook has continued to speak out about the importance of user privacy, and not wanting to help governments to spy on users.

What kind of challenges lurk in Cupertino’s future if it does aim to increase the market penetration of its devices in a place like Iran? I’m certain this will be far from the last story of its kind.

Source: Radio Free Europe