Economy, Sci & Tech

Battle Over Messaging Apps Restarts

Battle Over Messaging Apps Restarts
Battle Over Messaging Apps Restarts

Headed by President Hassan Rouhani, Iran's High Council of Cyberspace ruled that popular online messaging networks have a year to move their servers to Iran.

Foreign messaging applications that are in high demand in the country will have to do all data storage and activities related to Iranian users in Iran, IT IRAN reported.

Although the council did not name the services, websites expect the ruling to affect the most popular ones: Germany-based Telegram and US-developed WhatsApp  

However, it is not clear how these messaging services will react to the latest announcement and what will happen if they refuse to relocate their servers.

The council's decision has been reportedly based on the intention to create a more competitive environment for local messaging apps, but critics believe the government is eager to have greater control over the foreign-based apps.

To boost competitiveness, the council agreed to extend loans to local messaging networks.

Several local messaging apps have been launched inside Iran but none of them has been able to compete with their highly successful foreign counterparts.

A survey conducted by Iranian Students' Polling Agency in January showed Telegram has become the most popular social media network locally. Of the people registered on to at least one type of social media network, 71% are Telegram users, of whom 37.5% are active users and above 18 years.

After Telegram, the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp was the second most popular, with 26% of the population above 18 years using the social media application.

Asked about the top content categories users preferred, 67% said they use the applications for entertainment purposes, especially those with cinematic and humorous content.

Another issue that has been concerning Iranian officials is the spread of "immoral content" on the messaging apps, particularly on Telegram.

This issue prompted Iranian officials to push for filtering the messaging app. Subsequently, Iran managed to strike a deal with Telegram to selectively filter content.

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi recently said selective filtering of content on social media networks will be intensified.