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EghtesadOnline: Iran’s judiciary has issued an order calling on local internet service providers to block access to Google Play.

Over the past few days, a scanned copy of the judicial order signed by Javad Javidnia, the interim chief of the judiciary’s Cyberspace Department, was published on social media which called for its implementation “as soon as possible”.

The letter states that the decision to ban Google Play has been made by Iran’s Taskforce for Determining Criminal Content (aka Iran's Filtering Committee)—a 12-member committee of representatives from executive and legislative arms headed by the prosecutor general.

Some Iranian state authorities consider online censorship as filtering, which is aimed at cleansing the web of illegal, offensive and harmful content for the general public, according to Financial Tribune.

In a talk with Financial Tribune, Mohammad Jafar Nanakar, Iran Information Technology Organization’s deputy for legal affairs, and Mohammad Baqer Asnaashari, the head of Iran ICT Guild Organization, discussed the order and its possible impact.



Unwanted and Unsolicited

Nanakar confirmed that the judiciary’s Cyberspace Department has issued the order banning Google Play in Iran, although he believes that the move would backfire.

Nanakar censured the taskforce for not living up to its mandate. “Policies introduced by the taskforce are multifaceted and have extensive socioeconomic impacts. Therefore, such decisions demand careful consideration,” he said.

He believes that considering all the headwinds facing Iranians startups, “the taskforce should have realized that it is treading a fine line”.

Referring to the US embargo against Iran, Nanakar said, “The sanctions have already barred Iranian startups from making use of many services offered by leading international firms. Blocking access to Google Play, or similar overnight decisions, would be tantamount to self-imposed sanctions. Such decisions would put an unwanted and unsolicited burden on Iranian businesses and users.”



Twisted Policy

The news about the ban has spread among Iranians on the social media like wildfire, with many speculating that it has been introduced as a measure for promoting a similar domestic service.

Attention immediately turns to Cafe Bazaar, the largest Iranian android market with 40 million users.

In response to the rumors, Café Bazaar’s CEO Amin Amirsharifi wrote on Twitter, “Over the past eight years and competing with Google Play services, Cafe Bazaar has grown. We do not support the ban.”

ITO Chief Amir Nazemi re-tweeted Amirsharifi’s post with a comment, “[Bazaar] is against banning its [foreign] rival, knowing well that competition inspires growth. Furthermore, Iranian citizens trusted Bazaar since their freedom to choose was respected [by state actors].” He slammed the ban as a doomed policy.

Echoing Nazemi’s comments, Nanakar said that over the past year, the popularity of locally developed navigation services has boomed. 

“This is while foreign services have always been accessible. On the other hand, despite the state-imposed ban on some foreign social media platforms and messaging apps, indigenous services have failed to claim a firm foothold in the market,” he added.

With the exception of Instagram, all well-known international social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Telegram, have been blocked in Iran.

Nanakar noted that if the ban is implemented, Iranian citizens and NGOs can file a complaint with a relevant court to overturn the order.



Guild’s Stance

Pointing to the recent media maelstrom over the judicial order, Asnaashari told Financial Tribune, “Our policy in such cases is to wait for the dust to settle, get a clear picture of the situation and then take measures.”

He also noted that the judiciary is yet to “officially” confirm its order.

The guild chief said, “Generally speaking, online ban orders issued by the judiciary are implemented without further ado.”

Even though the order has been reportedly issued a few days ago, “this ban is yet to take effect. Therefore, it would not be farfetched to assume there seems to be some considerations about executing the order.”

Asnaashari concluded by saying, “ICT Guild Organization would stand firm against any measure that would take a toll on private businesses—banning Google Play would certainly do.”


Iran Google Play internet service providers ban Judiciary