An Iranian court has issued an order banning the popular messaging app Telegram from the country under the guise that the popular app helps to aid subversive activity. The move follows a similar decision by the Russian regulatory authorities who have tried (but have largely failed) to ban Telegram in Russia because the company’s Russian owner Pavel Durov has refused to hand over Telegram’s encryption keys to the Russian state.
Durov, the entrepreneur who is also behind the popular social media platform VK has insisted that handing encryption keys over to the state would violate a spirit of trust between his company and Telegram’s millions of users who include many prominent politicians including veteran Russian opposition leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and prolific Telegram user Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya. Through the use of Telegram Channels, public figures can send text messages to their followers at the push of a button and unlike western platforms including Facebook and Instagram which have a habit of banning popular politicians who are opposed to US hegemony, Telegram does not practice these forms of regressive censorship. Telegram channels have proved very effective for many world leaders including Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei who used to have a very popular Telegram channel.
Now, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has spoken out in favour of Telegram saying,
“Failure to follow legal procedures and the use of force and judicial means is … the opposite of democracy. The filtering and blocking of Telegram was not carried out by the government which does not approve of it”.
Rouhani is not only taking an important stand against judicial activism in Iran but he will also doubtlessly open the eyes of Russian authorities who have made a giant mess of their war on Telegram. Apart from being user friendly, safe for users and a highly effective way to both receive news and share documents and information with friends, unlike many western companies that work directly with malicious spy agencies including the CIA, Telegram has proved to be politically independent in every sense.
If countries like Russia and Iran continue to harass Telegram’s operators, they run the risk of pushing local users into the arms of companies like Facebook and Instagram who have a known record of stealing user data and handing it over to aggressive western intelligence agencies. Telegram does no such thing.
Banning Telegram also runs the risk of encouraging actual subversives to take up a cause which at its core is about political neutrality. Already in Russia, the traitorous professional provocateur and ideological extremist Alexander Navalny has prostituted himself to the cause of restoring Telegram, even though the cause is fundamentally not his but that of pragmatic patriots who are opposed to excessive western style regulations.
Telegram is not only a great product but it helps create a level playing field in the information and messaging industry as unlike western companies, it refuses to be beholden to any government but of course has cooperated with police in countries like both Russia and Iran in emergency situations.
In striking an important move in the name of common sense, President Rouhani has helped to shift the debate about Telegram from one of overly cumbersome regulations that will only help increase the popularity of less than secure western products throughout Eurasia, to one of patriotic empowerment and democracy with Eurasian characteristics.
His words must be taken seriously in Iran, Russia and beyond. He is speaking not only for Telegram’s millions of users but also for the political leaders and political thinkers who use Telegram as an efficient and effective way to communicate their messages with their followers.