A Tehran-based court today ordered Iranian telecommunications providers to block popular messaging app Telegram, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Iran has been concerned about Telegram’s role in recent protests and unrest in the country, which has led to the ban.
The order said Telegram gave Islamic State “safe ground” in an attack in Tehran last year and also blamed its role in protests in December and January, the biggest in Iran in almost a decade. It ordered telecommunications providers to block the service.
As of now, the Telegram app continues to be available for use without the need for a VPN or another method of circumventing the ban, and it is not clear if and when it will be rendered unavailable in the country.
According to The Wall Street Journal, approximately 40 million Iranians use Telegram, accounting for one-fifth of Telegram’s user base. Telegram is popular in the country as it offers end-to-end encrypted communication that’s inaccessible to the government.
Iran’s move to ban Telegram comes just a few weeks after a Russian court ordered Russian telecommunications providers to block Telegram in Russia after Telegram refused to comply with government demands for access to users’ messages.
Due to U.S. sanctions, Apple does not sell its products in Iran nor is there an Iranian App Store, but there are millions of iPhones in the country that have been smuggled from places like Dubai and Hong Kong.
Apple in March blocked access to the App Store in Iran, preventing Iranians from accessing apps by setting their devices to other regions.