Technology

Amid protests, Iran is blocking social media apps and other web services

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Amir Rashidi, an Internet security researcher who has worked with Telegram users who were victims of hacking, works at the offices of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., July 27, 2016.
Amir Rashidi, an internet researcher who has worked with Telegram users who were victims of hacking, works at the offices of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, July 27, 2016. 
 
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Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The United States on Tuesday urged Iran to stop blocking online social media and advised its citizens to set up virtual private networks, or VPNs, to circumvent censorship.

Since the protests erupted, Iran has restricted some social media services like Instagram and Telegram that authorities fear will be used to spread news about the unrest.

About 20 million of the country’s 80 million residents use Instagram, and approximately 40 million are estimated to use Telegram, Politico reports.

“Telegram, in particular, is extremely important in terms of where people get their information,” said Kaveh Azarhoosh, a researcher who publishes a monthly paper on Iran's internet policy.

Given already-existing censorship on certain social media sites and website, Azarhoosh says many Iranians used Telegram’s channels to receive information.

“Because of that, [Telegram] became more than a messaging app,” Azarhoosh said. “For a lot of people, Telegram was the internet in Iran.”

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporting was used in this story.

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