In the on-going protests in Iran which have seen mass demonstrations across the country, which led to the arrest of dozens of protestors, the government has gone ahead and blocked access to some social media sites.
According to the BBC, restrictions to access Telegram and Instagram apps were imposed to 'maintain tranquillity'. President Hassan Rouhani has said that people have a right to protest, but causing disorder will not be tolerated, reported the Iranian Students News Agency.
In Iran, Telegram and Instagram, as well as Twitter, have been instrumental in information dissemination when traditional media outlets are tightly controlled. Protestors have been extensively using Telegram and Instagram organise and promote the offline demonstrations. Around half of Iran's 80 mn people are said to be active on Telegram, which is quite a popular app in the country.
Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down https://t.co/9E4kXZYcP9 and other peacefully protesting channels.
— Pavel Durov (@durov) December 31, 2017
According to Pavel Durov, the CEO of Telegram, he had refused to shut down 'peacefully protesting channels' which led to the blocking of Telegram in Iran. After wishing Telegram users a Happy New Year on his channel, Durov wrote,"On a less joyful note, Iranian authorities started blocking Telegram in Iran today after we publicly refused to shut down channels of peaceful Iranian protesters, such as @sedaiemardom. We are proud that Telegram is used by thousands of massive opposition channels all over the world. We consider freedom of speech an undeniable human right, and would rather get blocked in a country by its authorities than limit a peaceful expression of alternative opinions."
Here is the complete statement put out by Durov.
According to Iranian communications minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, channels such as Amadnews were allegedly promoting the use of petrol bombs amidst causing social unrest.
Durov said that the public channel @amadnews was suspended after participants were found to be promoting violence. "The admins of the channel reached out to us after the fact, apologising for breaking our rules and pledging not to promote violence in the future. As a result, they have been able to reassemble most of their subscribers (800,000) in a new peaceful channel, which we welcomed," said Durov.
Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2017
Even US President Donald Trump called out the Iranian government on clamping down access to internet services which would prevent peaceful demonstrations.
The protests began in Mashhad against high living costs and the struggling economy before spreading quickly to other areas and turning against the Islamic regime as a whole. Protestors also began demanding the resignation of the clerical supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Since last Thursday, two people have been killed in clashes in the city of Doroud which is 200 miles south of capital city of Tehran.
"These protests are driven by the lower levels of society who have been hit by major economic problems, particularly losing their money when credit institutions collapsed," said Payam Parhiz, editor in chief of reformist media network Nazar, which first broke the news of the Mashhad protests.
"These economic protests are not something that has started overnight, it's been at least a year since these people lost their money in credit institutions and have been protesting at various places," he told AFP.