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Iran blocks access to Signal messaging app after it becomes popular

Photo showing a laptop, a book and a smartphone chained under lock and key. Censorship.

Iran has blocked access to Signal, the messaging app that has picked up tens of millions of new users around the world in the wake of controversial updates to WhatsApp’s terms and conditions. Word of the blocking surfaced on January 25, when the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) tweeted that access to the app was being blocked in Iran. Peivast reported that the Iranian government’s Working Group for Determining Instances of Criminal Content ordered the ban on January 15, after which the app was delisted from app stores in the country, and access to it was blocked.

In a statement, Signal said that it was working on getting around Iran’s censorship.

Telegram, the other app that gained traction at WhatsApp’s expense, has faced this situation too. That app was banned by Iran in May 2018. In 2020, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said that the company would make anti-censorship tools to enable users in countries like Iran and China, where Telegram is banned, to access the service. Part of that solution, Durov said, would involve routing Telegram traffic through servers around the world managed by volunteer developers, which would prove much harder to circumvent. It is not clear what Signal’s circumvention strategy will look like.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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