Iran Blocks Instagram, Telegram to 'Maintain Peace' Amid Protests

Telegram shut down one of its private messaging channels per Iran's request on Saturday, the third day of protests in the Islamic Republic

People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017
SOCIAL MEDIA/REUTERS

Iranian authorities on Sunday temporarily blocked Instagram and the messaging app Telegram to "maintain peace" amid protests, state TV said.

The Telegram messaging application shut down one of its channels per the Iranian regime's request on Saturday, the third day of protests in the Islamic Republic, after it reportedly violated the popular application's terms of use by promoting the use of violence.

In a tweet addressed to Telegram CEO and founder Pavel Durov, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology, wrote, "@Durov: A Telegram channel is encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprising, and social unrest. NOW is the time to stop such encouragements via Telegram."

>> The Iranian regime has learned to fear protesters – what happens next depends on how brutally it responds | Analysis >>

People gather to protest over the high cost of living in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017.
STRINGER / Anadolu Agency

The channel Jahromi was referring to is AmadNews, which, according to Twitter users, played an important role in organizing the wave of spontaneous protests over Iran's weak economy that has swept across Tehran and other Iranian cities.

In response to Jahromi's tweet, Durov wrote: "Calls for violence are prohibited by the Telegram rules. If confirmed, we'll have to block such a channel, regardless of its size and political affiliation."

Hours later, Durov tweeted that the channel had been suspended, and warned users to "be careful – there are lines one shouldn't cross." Durov's tweet was met with anger, accusing him of collaborating with dictators.

Widely shared Tweets from Iran showed demonstrators tearing down regime symbols, including signs and billboards with pictures of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Protesters chanted anti-government slogans just hours after hardliners held their own rally in support of the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment.

The anti-government demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike Iran since the protests that followed the country's disputed 2009 presidential election.