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Iran Cracks Down on Popular Encrypted Messaging App Ahead of Elections

The Iranian government is cracking down on Telegram, an encrypted text messaging app that has gained widespread popularity in the Islamic Republic.

Telegram allows its users to remain anonymous, allowing Iranian citizens to share and access information that’s typically censored by Tehran.

The regime is now demanding “Telegram channels with more than 5,000 followers to register with the country’s Culture Ministry,” Al-Monitor reported Thursday.

“In March, Attorney General Mohammed Jaffar Montazeri said that approximately 16,000-20,000 Telegram channels are blocked each week. Montazeri stressed that this practice is not enough to stop the tide of new channels and that Iran must create its own messaging app with servers based in the country,” Al-Monitor noted. “Montazeri added that with both the presidential and city council elections coming up, all the governing and oversight bodies must monitor online activities and ‘appropriately and legally confront’ any violations.”

The Iranian government has already blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google Plus. Iran has banned “almost all of the 500 most popular websites on the web,” Quartz reported last August. That same month, Iran announced that it had completed the first of three phases in launching a “national internet,” which would connect Iranian users to a domestic intranet while blocking them from accessing the broader international web.

When Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was asked in 2013 if it was hypocritical for him to have Facebook and Twitter accounts while those platforms were denied to average Iranians, the minister laughed and said, “that’s life.”

[Photo: YouTube]