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.


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 4 May 2018 @ 1:21pm

    Oh hey, more Arab Spring. Because the last one worked out sooooo well, bringing more freedom, democracy and prosperity to so many Arabs, yanno?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for throwing out the barbarian regime that's been in power in Iran for the last few decades. I just don't see much to suggest, if it does happen, that whatever alternative they come up with will be much better. That would require the country as a whole, or a significant fraction of it at least, admitting they were wrong the last time they changed regimes.

    Shah Reza, for all his personal faults, (which were quite real, but not particularly relevant,) was a good ruler. He was improving Iran, making it more civilized, tolerant, and prosperous. My mother lived there as a child, under his regime, and it was the sort of place where an American Christian family, including the women, could live without fear. He was instituting reforms that were turning Iran into a beacon of civilization in a part of the world that's seen precious little of it throughout all of history... and for that, the people turned on him, called him corrupt, threw him out, and plunged their nation into a state of darkness and barbarism from which it's never recovered.

    If Iran goes and has its own Arab Spring, (Persian Spring? Keep in mind they're not Arabians there,) though, in the current climate the best-case scenario is likely to be more or less the same thing we saw in Egypt: trading one oppressive, anti-democratic Islamist regime for another, and when the smoke clears they'll have a bunch of people dead, a bunch of property damaged or destroyed, and no additional freedom to show for it.

    I'd really like to be wrong about this, but I doubt I am.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 4 May 2018 @ 3:09pm

      Re:

      If Iran goes and has its own Arab Spring, (Persian Spring? Keep in mind they're not Arabians there,) though, in the current climate the best-case scenario is likely to be more or less the same thing we saw in Egypt: trading one oppressive, anti-democratic Islamist regime for another, and when the smoke clears they'll have a bunch of people dead, a bunch of property damaged or destroyed, and no additional freedom to show for it.

      I think there is a good chance that you are wrong about this one.

      The reason is that the Iranian people have now had 40 years of Islamic rule and have learnt to dislike it. The other middle eastern regimes were still basically secular dictators hailing from the age of arab nationalism (1950s-60s) before the Saudi petrodollars got to work in reinvigorating Islam as a political force. Ironically the Saudi motivation for this was to bolster Sunni Islam against the Iranian Shia version.

      So in the Sunni Arab world the popular revolutionary groundswell is still Islamic (which is why encouraging regime change in Egypt, Syria and for that matter Iraq, has proved so disastrous). Iran is now different and if the current Islamic regime is toppled it is reasonable to hope that it will be replaced with something better.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2018 @ 6:41pm

        Re: Re:

        Persians were the ones who came up with most of the basics for modern math thousands of years ago. Let their government keep them restricted so the rest of us have a few more years to work on it more before they rejoin society and advance it beyond recognition.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2018 @ 1:46am

      Re:

      Oh hey, more Arab Spring. Because the last one worked out sooooo well, bringing more freedom, democracy and prosperity to so many Arabs, yanno?

      Look up the history of the French revolutions sometime, and see how many attempts it took to bring democracy to that country. Success on the first try is an ulikely event, and it took the USA two goes to establish freedoms for all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Isma'il, 6 May 2018 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      Mason,

      I hate to break it to you, but the real reformer in Iran was the Shah's predecessor, Mohammed Mossadeq. Mossadeq was democratically elected in 1951, primarily on a platform of giving rights back to the Iranian people, particularly to stop Western oil companies from exploiting the country's resources. Mossadeq believed that the oil revenues belonged to the Iranian people, not Anglo-American companies. In 1953, a CIA-backed coup organised by Kermit Roosevelt overthrew Mossadeq and then installed Reza Shah again as ruler whilst the Western exploitation began anew. Whilst the current Iranian "regime" is definitely oppressive, the 1979 Revolution put the country's oil back in Iranian hands again, thereby pissing off the US and British governments. The recent transfer of oil trade in Iran from the US Dollar to the Euro didn't help matters, either.

      Make no mistake, I'm not endorsing the current Iranian government, but Reza Shah was no saint either.

      If you want to learn more, read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2018 @ 1:57pm

    Meanwhile, Israel ACTUALLY murdering protesters with "butterfly" bullets.

    > Medics on the ground say Israeli forces are shooting at demonstrators with a new type of round - never seen before - known as the "butterfly bullet", which explodes upon impact, pulverizing tissue, arteries and bone, while causing severe internal injuries. All 24 amputees were shot with a single explosive bullet, including journalists Yaser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein who succumbed to their wounds after being shot in the abdomen. **"All of their internal organs were totally destroyed, pulverized,"** said Ashraf al-Qedra, Gaza's health ministry spokesman.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/palestinians-face-explosive-bullets-dangerous-g as-bombs-180501091514736.html

    Techdirt silent on recent dozens of Palestinian protesters dead and over a thousand more, inclulding children, deliberately targeted for crippling wounds in joints. The Israelis even brag about it.

    But all Timmy does is jeer at Israel's *chosen* enemy (one of the many which are chosen due to rabid religious beliefs rather than any actual threat) -- Iran, which hasn't started a war for hundreds of years now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 4 May 2018 @ 2:33pm

      Re: Meanwhile, Israel ACTUALLY murdering protesters with "butterfly" bullets.

      Hmm, so now TD MUST talk about every nuance of every topic even if it's outside the tech scope, eh? Why don't you go build your blog about it? Not that I'm not saying what you said is without merit concerning the issue but TD is under n o obligation to delve into parts of the subject they don't want to. There are plenty of other blogs you can read that do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2018 @ 3:00pm

        Re: Re: Meanwhile, Israel ACTUALLY murdering protesters with "butterfly" bullets.

        Those other blogs only discuss butterfly bullets while ignoring Telegram's banning.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 4 May 2018 @ 3:17pm

      Re: Meanwhile, Israel ACTUALLY murdering protesters with "butterfly" bullets.

      Techdirt silent on recent dozens of Palestinian protesters dead and over a thousand more, inclulding children, deliberately targeted for crippling wounds in joints.

      I hate to break it to you but Techdirt isn't a general political blog. It is a technology blog that occasionally strays into political territory when there is a technical angle to the politics.

      SO whilst it is reasonable to make political comments about such articles, complaining that the blog doesn't cover your particular grievance is not sensible.

      BTW - the Israel Palestine issue is way nto complicated for your oversimplifications - and whilst there is a lot wrong with Israeli policy, particularly under the present leadership, it is still a better place to live for those Israeli arabs whose ancestors didn't flee in 1948 than any of the neighbouring arab countries.

      Destroying that relatively civilised space would not be a step forward.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2018 @ 3:19pm

      Re: Meanwhile, Israel ACTUALLY murdering protesters with "butterfly" bullets.

      A single explosive bullet that explodes 24 times, it must have been made with unobtainium!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 4 May 2018 @ 3:21pm

      Re: Meanwhile, Israel ACTUALLY murdering protesters with "butterfly" bullets.

      But all Timmy does is jeer at Israel's chosen enemy (one of the many which are chosen due to rabid religious beliefs

      Exactly whose rabid religious beliefs are you talking about? - because Iranian and other Islamic beliefs seem a lot more rabid than those of the Israelis.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2018 @ 12:55am

      Re:

      You realize Trump is on Israel's side, don't you blue boy?

      If you're going to suck on the party lines at least get them right. You have them balls deep down your throat; you really don't have an excuse for fucking this up.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2018 @ 2:09pm

    One bullet hit 24 people? That is one magic bullet. Did that get JFK too?

    The Republican Guard will not allow protesters to do what was done in other Arab countries.

    And it is pretty easy to choose an enemy when they say that you shouldn't exist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2018 @ 2:18pm

    Google

    Of course Google is doing their part help keep people from bypassing such blocks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2018 @ 5:05am

    "The Echoes Of The Arab Spring Begin To Sound"

    Nice try, not falling for the CIA/Mossad ploy again, ruin and kill millions on your own soil with your own blood, maybe we can then call for support of the Second American Revolution, as "Echoes Of The Western Spring Begin To Sound"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2018 @ 7:41am

    Some of my friends in college were from Iran, most of them were immigrants to the US, I believe. I had some conversations with them over time, usually when there was some bombastic or otherwise deliberately inflammatory "demonstrations" going on in Tehran (funny how it's always Tehran and not the rest of the country?). What the news organizations don't show, and aren't allowed to, is that most of Iran's citizens don't have any real beef with the US. That is, all of those "demonstrations" are shows for the media set up by the most hard line supporters of the Ayatolla (think of the US alt-right) and aren't supported by the rest of the country as a whole. This is generally why you'll only see these "mass demonstrations" in Tehran.

    What the Ayatolla and his supporters most fear is that the rest of the country, who doesn't really support their fundamentalist approach to Islam, will eventually violently rebel just like in Egypt, Libya, etc, and they saw the power of encrypted communications. Like any dictatorship, or in this case it's a oligarchy, they live in fear of the majority of their citizens because they don't represent the majority's interests nor match their world view.

    So yes, the Iranian leadership is afraid. They are very afraid. That launching their own Telegram service with those emoticons? That's them trying to encourage the party line. Like people here in the west and our memes, that "death to America" thing is taken about as seriously as we'd take Jeff Dunham's Achmed the Terrorist "Silence, I keel yew!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 5 May 2018 @ 5:07pm

    Hmmm…

    … So all we need now is an app to encrypt/decrypt text that
    is sent and received through "Soroush" … ‌ ‌ ‌ ;]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BeldansFire (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 5:26am

    Missing the point

    We are all missing the most important thing! How is the "Death to America" Emoji going work in the Emoji Movie sequel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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