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The Iranian government has blocked the messaging app Signal after a massive increase in users

This is not the first time that the Iranian government has intervened and blocked a messaging app.

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Image: KnowTechie

In light of WhatsApp’s new privacy policies, Iranians have turned towards the encrypted messaging app Signal. It has become such a big trend that it caught the eyes of the Iranian government. Apparently, the government is not keen on the idea of its citizens using this encrypted messaging app.

Consequently, the Iranian government started taking steps to prevent its citizens from using the messaging app. The report comes from Al Jazeera.

First, they started blocking all Signal internet traffic through the government-run telecommunication company. Then they ordered the removal of Signal from Myket and Cafe Bazaar, the two most popular App stores in Iran, aside from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

However, this is not the first time that the Iranian government has intervened and blocked a messaging app. On two occasions, in 2017 and 2018, Telegram was blocked all around Iran during massive anti-government protests. After a period without any protests, Telegram became available once again without any explanation. 

Before the current restrictions, an Iranian filtering committee consisting of government officials was formed to identify “criminal content.” The filtering body consists of Iranian law enforcement representatives, the judiciary system, the communications ministry, the education ministry, the country’s prosecutor general, and others. 

For many years, Signal was the go-to messaging apps for members of the civil rights movement in Iran

That went under the radar of government monitors, mainly due to Signal’s small user base. Once Signal started picking up momentum, and during the biggest protests, the government became aware of it and started taking steps to stop Signal’s growth and deter people from using it. 

With the latest blockage, Signal joins a list of prominent messaging apps, websites, and social media blocked in Iran that includes Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Telegram. 

In the meantime, WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in Iran with tens of millions of users, is free to use in Iran. Some human rights activists and users have raised some concerns that the Iranian government might have access to user information on WhatsApp.

Mahsa Alimardani, a Ph.D. candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and an internet researcher with human rights organization Article19, said that any facts or evidence does not support this claim. Plus, it is unlikely that the Iranian government can threaten Facebook’s security firewalls (Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014), or that Facebook would share any data with Iran. 

Alimardani believes that the Iranian government aims at keeping the number of unblocked apps low and prevent Signal from growing too big in Iran. There are reports that many people have figured out how to bypass the restrictions and still use Signal. 

All in all, it seems that the Iranian government significantly slowed down the use of the Signal app. It remains unclear how all that will affect the civil rights movement in Iran overall.

Have any thoughts on this? Surprised that Signal is being suppressed? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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