Iran has ordered foreign messaging apps to transfer data and activity records of Iranian users to local servers within a year, a move that will give the country a greater ability to monitor and censor the online activity of its people.
The country’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace has issued instructions to foreign messaging companies active in the country, requiring them “to transfer all data and activity linked to Iranian citizens into the country in order to ensure their continued activity," news reports said, quoting state-run media.
Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are already blocked in the country, whose government holds a tight control over Internet access by its people.
The requirement that the data be stored on local servers could give the government easier access to the information as then the domestic operations of the messaging companies would likely be subject to local regulations.
The messaging app most likely to be affected by this move is Telegram, which is very popular in the country and has an user base of about 20 million, or one of every four persons in the country, according to Reuters.
“While hardliners have met the meteoric rise of messaging apps like Telegram in Iran with strenuous opposition, more moderate members of the Iranian establishment see in the platform an opportunity for getting state-approved content to its massive user base,” according to a report by Small Media in London.
In April, Mahmoud Vaezi, the country’s minister of communications, told a local news agency that Telegram had promised to close down pornographic channels within 24 hours of receiving a request from the the Iran government.