Iranian Lawmakers Seek to Further Isolate Christians by Banning Foreign Social Media Apps

ICC Note:

A letter signed by the majority of Iranian lawmakers has called for a ban on foreign social media apps in an attempt to force Iranians to use state-approved domestic alternatives. These foreign apps are invaluable to Christians living in Iran, as it allows them to overcome their forced isolation by connecting with church leaders abroad, allowing them the opportunity of discipleship and theological growth. Foreign apps are also a safe way for Iranian Muslims curious about Christianity to engage with the church; most of Iran’s Christians are converts. Banning foreign social media apps is not only a way for the regime to strengthen its control over the population, but also a way for the regime to further drive the church underground.  

 

01/21/2018 Iran (Center for Human Rights Iran) –A majority of Iranian lawmakers have signed a letter calling for a ban on foreign social media apps to support state-led efforts to drive Iranians toward using state-approved domestic alternatives.

The letter was published the same week President Hassan Rouhani lifted the ban on the widely used Telegram messaging app.

“In order to protect the political and cultural independence of the country and prevent assaults against the security and privacy of citizens … we, the representatives of the people, strongly urge the heads of the three branches of state to support the replacement of foreign messaging services with domestic ones,” said a letter signed by 170 of Iran’s 290 members of Parliament on January 16, 2018.

Used by an estimated 40 million Iranians, Telegram was inaccessible for two weeks amid nationwide internet disruption on order of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) amid the anti-government protests that broke out across dozens of Iranian cities on December 28, 2017.

Rouhani lifted the ban following a decision by the SNSC, which he chairs, on January 13, 2018.

According to the Kalame news site, the MPs’ letter, addressing President Rouhani, Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, was drafted by Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a conservative MP from the city of Qom.

The letter accused foreign social media networks of promoting violence and drug use, as well as playing a role in the recent protests and the terrorist attack on Iran’s Parliament in June 2017.

The MPs also called for tighter controls on virtual private networks (VPNs), which are used by millions of Iranians to circumvent online state censorship.

In March 2012, the government of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the state-owned Telecommunications Infrastructure Company of Iran (TICI) to block all foreign VPNs and develop a “legal VPN” within a month. But five months later, the company admitted that it was unable to implement the plan.

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