The Iranian regime has been trying to exert control over the Iranian people in many ways. One of the recent measures taken by the regime was to encourage the people to stop using the popular Telegram messaging application in favor of domestic apps.
The regime has been trying to convince the people that it would be better for them to support home-grown businesses rather than foreign ones.
Telegram is an extremely popular messaging service that is used by millions of Iranians but several weeks ago it was announced that it is to be banned in order to protect Iran’s national security.
The Iranian regime had been considering the ban since earlier in the year when protests erupted the whole way across the country. Officials said that the protests spread so quickly because the people were using Telegram to organise rallies and to spread dissent.
The application was temporarily blocked by the regime in an attempt to contain the protests and anti-government demonstrations and it is clearly very fearful that a similar uprising will be reproduced in the near future.
Soroush is an application that the regime is trying to convince the people to use. It was created by officials in Iran and President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei allegedly use it in place of Telegram.
The people of Iran, however, have not taken to its use. Despite the blocks that have been put in place, the tech-savvy people of Iran are able to find and use workarounds that allow them to continue using Telegram. One such workaround is a VPN – a Virtual Private Network – that allows the user to evade filtering with the use of encrypted links that make it looks like the computer accessing a certain website is in another country.
Telegram is not the only application that has been banned or filtered and the rights of the people are weak. There are no laws guaranteeing citizens’ privacy and the security forces are allowed to monitor people’s usage. This has happened on countless occasions in the past and they have resulted in arrests and imprisonment.
The creation of domestic applications is just another way for the government to monitor the people. The domestic apps do not have end-to-end encryption meaning that user information and content can easily be viewed by authorities.
There are already reports about the worrying use of domestic apps. For example, some people have reported that accounts have been created in their name in Soroush without their permission. This is a violation of privacy that could cost a company up to tens of millions of dollars in the West. However, Iran does not have protections laws in place. Officials in Iran, including the telecommunications minister, have not yet commented on the reports and accusations.
The Iranian people are – quite rightly – refusing to use the domestic apps. They know that they could face arrest and potentially imprisonment if their private conversations are not what the regime’s security officials like to be.