Iran’s judiciary banned the Telegram Monday, accusing the popular messenger app of allowing armed opposition groups to fuel unrest, according to Mizan Online, the judiciary’s news agency, AFP-Services reported.
Government officials publicly called for Telegram to be banned earlier this month after the messenger app concluded the second round of its record-setting $1.7 billion ICO to develop a full-service blockchain ecosystem.
Hassan Firouzabadi, secretary of the government’s High Council for Cyberspace, warned at the time that the company’s new cryptocurrency will undermine the local economy if left unchecked.
The directive against the country’s most popular social network in Iran follows a recent presidential directive to ban all government workers from using foreign messenger apps. Built by Russian tech guru Pavel Durov, Telegram is used by 40 million, nearly half the country’s population.
Officials temporarily banned Telegram at the beginning of the year when protests struck dozens of cities, accusing the service of allowing foreign-based counter-revolutionary groups to foment insurrection.
Authorities have since tried to establish social media networks and reduce the influence of foreign-based platforms that the government claims hosts sites opposed to the government.
Several platforms have emerged in recent months, such as the Soroush network, which claims 5 million subscribers.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, and President Hassan Rouhani both said they would stop using Telegram in mid-April.
Khamenei’s last message on Telegram directed users to use Iranian services like Soroush and Gap.
Rouhani, a moderate, reportedly declared his opposition to the ban in a meeting with other high-ranking officials earlier this month.
Phone and Internet providers have a duty to block Telegram access, the news agency said, adding that those disobeying the order will be considered in violation and face prosecution.
Telegram was still working Monday evening, according to AFP reporters.
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