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EghtesadOnline: After a deputy attorney general said recently that Instagram should, and will be banned in Iran, the ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi made known that that would not help.

After comments made by Javad Javidnia, attorney general’s deputy for cyberspace, over the upcoming Instagram were reported in and outside Iran, Jahromi responded. 

“Let’s assume that what he [Javidnia] said has legal merit. Let’s also assume that Instagram can get blocked within the law. So what? What would be the result?”

His brief talk with journalists on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting on Thursday and taken on video have gone viral, Financial Tribune reported.

“Don’t polarize society between opponents and proponents of the online ban. Speak to the people. Tell them that ‘[by law] we could and did block Instagram.’ Tell them what results are expected. What would be the national impact? How people’s lives and the governance will be affected? Will the ban cut crime rates? How the ban will promote local services?”

He called on the relevant authorities to answer such questions in a transparent manner.

On Friday and addressing the opening ceremony of the 8th Mashhad Smart City Exhibition, Jahromi said, “This is not the first time that we are facing this issue. Experience has it that blocking online services does not help. The platform, [Instagram], can be used by young entrepreneurs for expanding and promoting their services.”

When he was questioned whether Instagram will be blocked, Jahromi said, “When I’m not the one who makes the decision, how can I answer this question?”


Ban Order

Mizan Online the judiciary’s news website published an interview with Javidnia on Thursday where he says what he told the local news website Peivast was misquoted. 

“The judicial to ban Instagram was issued [months ago] and the service was blocked for some time. However, the government proposed that instead of blocking the service [entirely], illegal and obscene content published on it be filtered through a smart system.” 

The term ‘filtering’ is used by authorities in Iran to refer  to blocking access to online content and services, reflecting their view that through the process harmful content is removed from the web.

Javidnia says, “Since data transfer on Instagram is encrypted, all the money spent on creating the smart filtering system has been lost. Obscene and illegal content is still published on Instagram.”

Facebook-owned Instagram does not use end-to-end encryption on the photo-sharing app.

“Furthermore, the High Council of Cyberspace has issued a ruling that obliges foreign social media platforms to get permit [from Iranian authorities to offer services in the country]. They also must agree to operate within the confines of Iranian national law. The foreign platforms also need to set up servers in Iran [for offering services to locals],” the senior judiciary official said.

“As per the ruling, if these companies do not meet the requirements their services must get blocked. It is indeed regrettable that this has not happened.”


Other Reactions

Former minister of cooperatives, Ali Rabiei pointing to a Persian proverb wrote on Tweeter: “Banning social media platforms like Instagram and Telegram, to me is like the story of a man who turned to pricking himself with a needle to escape boredom. During the sanctions era we should stand by the people and make life easier for them. Don’t meddle with people’s lives. Blocks and bans have never been a solution.”

IT Organization deputy for legal affairs, Mohammad Jafar Nanakar, tweeted Thursday: “Banning [people’s] freedom or access to social media platform must be within the law. The issue should be brought before the parliament and lawmakers should decide.”

The Persian-language daily Hamshahri, owned by Tehran Municipality, ran a story on Thursday on its front page titled “Duel Over Instagram Ban”. The issue hit headlines of other local newspapers, including the privately-owned economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad and the government-owned ‘Iran’.

More than 24 million Iranians use Instagram. President Hassan Rouhani has 2.2 million Instagram followers. During his 2017 presidential campaign, Rouhani used Instagram to reach out to the people.

The ICT minister is also active on social media. He has an Instagram account with 174,000 followers. He also is an active tweeter user, he has 88,900 followers.

Almost all globally used social media platforms are blocked in Iran, including Facebook, Tweeter and Telegram. Instagram has been the last international social media service accessible in Iran without the help of a VPN.


Iran Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi ICT Minister Instagram Ban