Telegram’s fate in Iran is still uncertain. However, a number of government bodies including the Iranian Parliament is against keeping this messaging app blocked. A spokesman for the Iranian Parliament also has warned Telegram officials that there are serious alternatives to replace this app if Telegram does not make a pledge.
Last week, on New Year’s Eve, Instagram and Telegram, the two most popular apps among Iranians became blocked in the country. A few days later, Instagram’s restrictions were lifted but Telegram is still not accessible. While the app’s fate is uncertain, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology has stated that this restriction is temporary.
Recently Behrouz Nemati, the spokesman for the Presidium of the Islamic Consultative Assembly stated that the parliament is against keeping Telegram blocked, however, to end this restriction “Telegram should commit to not becoming a tool by the enemies of the Iranian nation.” He also warned the Telegram officials that there are serious alternatives to replace this app in Iran.
Unlike many other messaging apps, the concept of “channel” by Telegram which allows users to easily broadcast various content to users is what made this app highly popular in Iran. Thousands of Iranians have been using their Telegram channels as a source of revenue with various content that they create. Although statistics show that the average daily users of this app dropped during the first few days after its restrictions, many users are again accessing the app through Virtual Private Networks and proxy servers.
The restriction on Telegram has brought disaffection to Iranians since the app was widely used by over 40 million users only in Iran. A study shows that 6 out of 10 Iranians are a member of Telegram messaging app. The study also indicates that 58.4% of Iranians over the age of 18 are using this app.
According to the statistics by the Digital Center of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, 9 thousand Telegram channels which were officially registered by this center which were acting as a business are now disrupted. According to this center, 15 percent of these businesses are already terminated and if this restriction continues, more will be eliminated. This number only reflects the number of channels which have been registered in this center, the total number of business channels should be significantly higher than this number.
Currently, Iranian authorities have been encouraging citizens to migrate to local messaging apps, but the local ones are facing serious challenges to grab shares in the market. The Chinese multi-purpose social media app, WeChat which once had 4 million users in Iran and got blocked in late-2013 is now accessible again. We assume that this decision has been made in order to lure users out of Telegram. What’s surprising is that previously it was announced that WeChat was blocked in Iran due to invading user’s privacy by accessing their private data and distributing immoral content and especially its feature to find nearby people.
Stay tuned as we update you with news of the battle of messaging apps and an exclusive report on the state of messaging apps and social media in Iran.