A number of online payment gateways got blocked in Iran recently without a prior notice from the government. Few of these companies claim that they don’t know of the reasoning behind the government’s decision but we might be able to shed some light on the matter.
On Tuesday afternoon, March 15th, a few online payment gateways got censored by the Iranian government. These gateways didn’t get any kind of notice regarding the possible blockage. The Criminal Censorship Committee (roughly translated), is the entity in charge of blocking and censoring websites which have been suspected for criminal activities or that don’t abide by Iranian regulations. They are the entity which has decided to censor these gateways.
Why Were They Censored?
There are few things that need to be expanded on first.
- As you may know, in Iran we can’t access certain websites, mainly because they aren’t in abidance with Iranian laws and morals. There are instances where many of the popular online social media services and websites which contain explicit content or national security related concerns, have been blocked. People in Iran use various VPN (Virtual Private Network) services to bypass the censorship mainly to access social media.
- In addition, any company or individual that wants to sell their products or services online via its own website, should acquire the Enemad, which is the official indicator for an approved and trusted online vendor. To obtain this sign, the vendor should satisfy various criteria. Once acquired, this sign should be placed on the homepage to show the visitors that they can trust the website for online purchases.
- Mainly banks or online payment gateways provide online payment services to websites. Generally companies don’t go to the banks to gain access to such services. Why? Because the process is very time consuming. Online payment gateways can provide these services much faster than the banks can.
- There are many Iranian websites who sell products or services online that are against the law. These websites work with the online payment gateways to be able to process their online transactions. Technically these websites are bypassing the governing bodies by accessing the online payment gateways directly and therefore, they don’t have get the Enemad.
Let’s go back to the subject of why these online payment gateways were censored. In order to cut the access of the illegal websites from processing payments, the government must force the online payment gateways to check the websites for the Enemad. Until now, many of these websites have been active without the Enemad. And in order to prevent the activity of such websites, the Criminal Censorship Committee has cut the access of online payment gateways all together.
The interesting part in this incident is that right now, we have the new year holidays upon us. Nowruz is the start of the new year for Iranians and the governmental and official organizations are on holiday for at least a week which makes the timing of this blockage very unfortunate. These companies can’t hand over their objections during the holidays and they are forced to wait at least a week to be able to initiate their appeal process with the Criminal Censorship Committee. The fact that they didn’t get a notice or warning from the committee or any other governmental entity, as Payline (one of online payment gateways) claims, is unclear, and the holidays prevents us from gaining further information on this subject.
Latest list of online payment gateways with temporary license: