Iran Considers Banning Telegram After Its $1.7 Billion ICO
Government officials in Iran are planning a second ban on the popular messaging application Telegram, according to U.S. news outlet Al-Monitor. The ban is backed by “high-level” Iranian officials who dislike Telegram’s perceived monopoly and plan to promote a home-grown alternative.
This comes as a reaction to Telegram’s massively successful ICO that already raised $1.7 Billion after it’s second funding round. The company plans to develop an entire crypto ecosystem within the app, which conservatives argue is an “imminent threat” to the Iranian national currency.
Of Telegram’s 200 million users, around 40 million are Iranian, about half of the authoritarian country’s population. In Iran, the messaging app is the preferred online place to chat with friends, read the news and even conduct business.
Telegram’s extreme popularity has caused a stir amongst officials after it became the platform of choice for organizing protests that rocked over 100 cities in the country in December. After the upset, the country temporarily banned access to Telegram and Instagram.
Iranian news site, Entekhab, reports that Hassan Firouzabadi, the secretary of the government’s High Council for Cyberspace, spoke on state TV April 3 describing Telegram as an “enemy of the private sector,” and questioning their motives in Iran:
“Telegram is not a dominant messenger in any country except for Iran… Telegram has officially announced that it will be used as an economic platform, and Telegram will undermine the national currency of Iran.”
“We expect that these funds will last 10 years, during which time about 50 billion dollars will be withdrawn from the country, but if within a night, the value of this money will be lost, people will be protesting why there was no such regulation.”
“If we allow Telegram to enter the economic climate of the country, then the dozens of jobs that are operating as agencies in the country and millions of people working there will be eliminated. That is why in the council, this we conclude that we must have native messengers to be multipurpose and economic platforms.”
The main concern is Telegram’s alleged monopoly over messaging in Iran, which many government officials wish to offset with an Iranian platform. According to Al-Monitor, conservatives like Firouzabadi wish to ban the app outright, but Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and other moderates feel blocking the app would be a costly overreaction:
“Having strong, secure and cheaply priced Iranian messaging applications that can solve people’s needs and problems will surely make everyone proud. The goal of creating and enhancing Iranian software and messaging apps should not be blocking access [to other apps], but should be the elimination of monopolies.”
Jalal Mirzaei, a Reformist member of parliament, echoed the president’s assertion that blocking the app would hurt the economy, potentially costing around 200,000 jobs. Additionally, Al-Monitor reports that Iran’s minister of communications is, “vehemently against blocking as the only solution.”