Iran Demands Censorship Tools For App, CEO Says Nah

Steve Ambrose | Contributor

Iran walked back demands for censorship controls this week after a public outcry over its initial decision to block a popular encrypted messaging app.

Pavel Durov, founder and chief executive officer for the app Telegram, took to Twitter to defend the app Tuesday after Iran decided to block it because he wouldn’t allow the government to spy on its users. (RELATED: Iran Debates Whether America Is Now Just A Medium-Sized Satan)

“Iranian officials want to use @telegram to spy on their citizens,” Durov tweeted. “We can not and will not help them with that.” And in a follow-up tweet: “Iranian ministry of ICT demanded that @telegram provided them with spying and censorship tools. We ignored the demand, they blocked us.”

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is the branch of the Iranian government that is responsible for the postal service, phones and information technology.

According to Durov, ICT completely blocked the app in Iran for two hours Tuesday and partially blocked it for more than a week. (RELATED: Brave Iranian Women Ditch Headscarves In Defiance Of Regime)

Dr. Mahmoud Vaezi, the head minister for Iran’s communication agency, denied authorities were “filtering” Telegram, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Durov later tweeted that the Telegram service was back to full capacity. “Yes, @telegram traffic is no longer limited in Iran after a week’s interference and a 2 hours full blocking,” he tweeted.

Iran routinely blocks completely or filters social media sites or apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These “smart filters” act as a gatekeeper for the Internet traffic flowing into Iran and allow the government to censor information it deems “illegal or inappropriate.”

“Authoritarian states across the world are demanding access to personal communications with catastrophic effects on people’s privacy and the ability of activists, journalists and others to exercise their human rights,” Privacy International researcher Edin Omanovic told Motherboard in an email. And when service providers, such as Telegram, resist those demands “they must be commended.”

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