As Iran Joins Russia's Block On Telegram, The Echoes Of The Arab Spring Begin To Sound
from the history-repeats dept
As we have been discussing, Russia has engaged in something of an insane attempt to obliterate the application Telegram from its lands, following the company’s refusal to hand over its encryption keys to Russia’s FSB. Where this got really insane was Russia deciding to block hundreds of thousands of IP addresses, many of which are those of Amazon as Telegram had moved to the company’s cloud service to get around the initial Russia blockade. As a huge swath of the internet in Russia subsequently broke, along with all sorts of Russian services that rely on the internet to function, many began to wonder what could be so severe in Telegram to warrant such a cluster bomb approach. Russia’s answer was, of course, terrorism. The truth came in the form of a wave of protests in Russia, signaling that disallowing anti-government coordination via an encrypted messaging service is and always was the goal.
And now Iran has mirrored the approach of its international partner, blocking Telegram in its country as well. The sales pitch to the public as to the need to block Telegram is also the twin of the Russian approach.
Iran had previously tied Telegram to the ISIS attacks in Tehran in July of 2017. And the Iranian government had previously blocked Telegram temporarily in January during nation-wide demonstrations for what officials claimed were national security reasons. But according to Iranian press agency MNA, Iran’s Parliament Committee of National Security and Foreign Policy Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi said in an April 1 radio interview that the service would be permanently banned and replaced with a domestically developed alternative.
It’s worth putting this in the context of Iranian government enduring its own recent wave of protests. Once again, despite the wheeling out of the ISIS boogeyman, this is once again all about silencing dissent. The curtailing of internet freedoms, among more general freedom of course, has been tried in the past. In fact, if all of this sounds somewhat familiar, you may want to refer back to our coverage of the Arab Spring. While that uprising wasn’t specifically to do with internet access and freedom, the attempts by Middle East governments to clamp down on the internet to stave off revolution made it no friends among the general public. Pissing off the general public is, of course, not the best way to keep a revolution at bay.
And, of course, the Iranian government is offering an alternative in an almost caricature-esque way.
The Iranian ban has had an impact on many government-connected organizations in Iran, since more than 40 million Iranians are believed to use the service. Those organizations have been moving to Soroush, the Iran-developed alternative promoted by the government that was released last week. The app comes complete with a “Death to America” emoji and “stickers” with messages supporting Iran’s leadership.
Cool. We’ll see if that kind of cute anti-American death wish is sufficient to keep from pissing the Iranian public off. I’m of the opinion that it’s a matter of when, not if, change is coming to that great nation.