EghtesadOnline: Tapping into the Gram cryptocurrency offered by the instant messaging app Telegram by Iranians is considered a “redline” in the eyes of the High Council of Cyberspace, the country’s watchdog and regulator of online activities.
This was announced by HCC Secretary Abolhassan Firouzabadi who happens to a staunch detractor of the platform that boasts some 40 million Iranians among its subscribers.
“Offering digital currencies by Telegram and providing non-traditional services that don’t exist in other major social media networks in the world are considered a redline of the country’s cyberspace for protecting the security of the people,” the official said during a late-night TV interview on Monday.
“If the trend of Telegram’s activities continues under such circumstances, officials must react,” Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
From a legal standpoint, Iranians are unable to employ the Telegram cryptocurrency as the company announced in mid-March that all people on the sanctions lists of the US, the UK, European Union and the United Nations and all citizens living in sanctions territories are prohibited from buying Gram and taking part in the Telegram Open Network’s initial coin offerings.
Firouzabadi added that Iranian users are among major customers of Telegram’s cryptocurrency.
“This is because even as the central bank has yet to announce its definitive regulatory stance [regarding cryptocurrencies], people still welcome the grey market of virtual currencies,” he said.
The Central Bank of Iran is the sole official entity in charge of drafting a regulatory stance about virtual currencies and as announced last year, it aims to disclose its regulatory framework by the end of the first half of the current fiscal year on Sept. 22.
As the HCC secretary pointed out, a few other entities, including HCC and the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, have initiated a discourse on virtual currencies in Iran, including ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi who announced the country’s plan to launch its own cryptocurrency last month.
“But the first and last decision-maker about cryptocurrencies is the CBI and other ministries and entities can merely help it,” Firouzabadi said, adding that the view about employing virtual currencies in Iran is positive.
Explaining his opposition toward Telegram’s cryptocurrency, the official said it is not necessary for a messaging app or social media network to operate virtual currencies when such currencies are not defined by law in many countries. He referred to Telegram’s move as “clashing with the law”.
Another important thing, Firouzabadi added, is that Telegram’s cryptocurrency cannot be mined and this violates the “intrinsic nature” of virtual currencies.
According to US Securities and Exchanges Commission filings, Telegram’s two private ICOs have raised $1.7 billion to become the world’s largest.
The company also announced days ago that it has reached the milestone of 200 million active monthly users.
Firouzabadi’s criticism of Telegram’s cryptocurrency comes amid talks among high-level officials of the possibility of the messaging app being blocked in Iran. This prompted President Hassan Rouhani to indirectly refer to the matter on Tuesday and say even as promoting a local messaging app would be great, such a thing will be done with the aim of “removing monopoly” in messaging apps and not blocking others.
Firouzabadi had previously referred to Telegram’s operations as “a kind of one-sided news publication” and emphasized that its “continued operation under current circumstances is not to our benefit”. He had suggested that Iran’s only problem now is that it does not have a replacement for Telegram.