Prominent figures in the Iranian government are set to debate the possible ban on popular messaging app Telegram, under the pretext that the recent initial coin offering (ICO) from the company threatens the national currency.
Telegram in Iran
Telegram recently held a record-breaking ICO, so far raising USD 1.7 billion that will be invested into developing a decentralized blockchain digital communication platform powered by their new native token, Gram.
Iran is a popular location for Telegram users. The government has condemned the app as posing a national security threat, however, saying it played a large part in organizing the political protest in the country in December 2017.
Secretary of the High Council for Cybersecurity of Iran, Hassan Firouzabadi, has supported a ban of Telegram, noting what he perceives as the danger of widespread cryptocurrency adoption in the country.
US news outlet A-Monitor reported Firouzabadi as calling Telegram an ”enemy of the private sector”, claiming that the company refused to have an office in Iran, or cooperate with the country’s private sector. He continued by stating ”Telegram will undermine the national currency of Iran”.
The argument of government officials opposing the introduction of the Gram currency is reportedly their concern that the virtual currency has a lifetime of just ten years. In this time, they predict USD 50 billion would be withdrawn from the country, leading to what they believe will be mass protests when the currency declines.
As well as this, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for an investment into cheaply-priced Iranian messaging applications. Speaking to a local news outlet, Rouhani emphasized ”creating and enhancing Iranian software and messaging apps” while preventing Telegram from becoming a messaging app monopoly.
The Iranian government has given a number of reasons for banning Telegram in Iran, although critics believe the primary reason they want the ban is to prevent more political protests erupting easily as in December 2017.