Head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iranian Parliament announced that within a month, Telegram App will be completely replaced by a national social media platform.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi said in a radio interview that the decision to “phase out” Telegram has been “reached at the highest levels of the country’s leadership” and Telegram will soon be replaced by a “similar national system”.
He added that the national app has been named “Soroosh” and added: “This is a vital national security move for us, keeping in mind the detrimental role of Telegram in last year’s crises.”
Boroujerdi’s reference is to the many protests that took place all across Iran last December when in about one hundred Iranian cities protesters took to the streets to protest against economic and political hardships. The authorities temporarily blocked the Telegram app during the protests.
Boroujerdi stressed that their aim is to completely block Telegram by the end of the current Iranian month.
Telegram is one of the few social media networks not blocked by the Islamic Republic. Last week the country’s head of the National Virtual Space spoke of the “necessity to bloc Telegram”. The news was echoed by the head of Task Force for Identification of Criminal Content who denied rumors of ending the filtering of Twitter and YouTube saying: “We have reached an unprecedented agreement on ending the domination and influence of enemies over the country`s virtual space.
Many interpreted these statements as the imminent censorship of Telegram. Meanwhile Hamideh Zarabadi, a reformist MP revealed that the Supreme Council of Virtual Space has passed a proposal to block Telegram which was immediately followed by outrage from several reformist and conservative MPs. Even President Hassan Rohani spoke out against the decision. Freedom to use Telegram was one of the top items in Rohani`s campaign promises. He had even promised that his government would end the filtering of other social media platforms.
Half of Telegram users across the world are in Iran, an estimated 40 million. Iranians reportedly have over 600 thousand public channels on Telegram forty percent of which are online stores. Blocking of Telegram could, therefore, result in a serious blow to these businesses.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has dubbed this year as “the year of support for Iranian Goods”. In this vein, the Minister of Communications and Technology has made the blocking of Telegram and promoting a national messenger service its top priority.
Meanwhile, Alaeddin Boroujerdi noted: “It may be true that Soroosh App only has 3 million subscribers in comparison to Telegram’s 40 million but when Telegram is blocked users will turn to the national platform.”
Reports indicate that so far only five percent of Telegram users have downloaded the national app.