But leading up to Iran’s presidential election in May, Telegram is now seen by some as a force that’s stifling political speech.
That’s because in recent months Iranian security and intelligence agencies have begun arresting Telegram users and now require those who run popular Telegram channels to apply for permits — disclosing their identities.
There’s concern the bots could allow authorities to identify — and potentially prosecute — users for the channels they follow.
Their presence is leading some to censor their speech or stay out of political channels altogether, according to Amir Rashidi, an Internet security researcher at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.“If the [Iranian government] collects Telegram usernames, they can pass it to that ‘bot’ and create a map of who is following any type of Telegram channels,” Rashidi said.
And they have cast social media platforms — described by Iranian prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri as “polluted anti-religious networks — as an enemy. It’s the worst kind of bondage,” Montazeri said in December. has agreed to pay the United States 2 million and plead guilty to violating U. trade sanctions against Iran, the Justice Department said Tuesday. Yet he continues to worry his relatives in the country will be punished for his actions.“Sometimes I dream about being found and arrested. Government officials have justified the move to the local media by saying it’s a matter of national security.Users and industry experts, however, say it has another effect: deterring political discourse.It isn’t unusual for state authorities to target individuals for online dissent.Last December, a handful of Iranians in the fashion industry were prosecuted for posting pictures on social networking sites such as Instagram, which officials argued promoted “Western culture.”In January, officials in Iran’s Hormozgan Province shut down around 80 Telegram channels and arrested 32 people managing those channels, according to Iran’s semi-official ISNA channel, accusing them of “spreading lies, disturbing public order, creating fear and promoting immoral and anti-cultural material.”And in February, Iran’s conservative Fars News Agency reported that authorities detained several administrators of Telegram channels. from Tehran a few months ago, said she and her colleagues scour popular Iranian Telegram channels to make sure comments they made on Facebook or Twitter have not been republished there by channel administrators.“My friends in Iran, when they see their tweets republished in these popular channels that talk about politics, they worry.