Censorship and Collateral Damage: Analyzing the Telegram Ban in Iran

24 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2018

See all articles by Simin Kargar

Simin Kargar

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Keith McManamen


Date Written: September 2018


In late April 2018, Iran’s Judiciary announced a much anticipated ban on the popular messaging application, Telegram. The filtering order instructed all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Iran and the Telecommunications Ministry to block access to content on the Telegram network. The ban went into effect despite the record breaking popularity of Telegram, which was used by an estimated 40 million Iranians.

Iranian users rushed to apply circumvention tools to stay connected to Telegram despite the concerted efforts of different political bodies to diminish attention to the app. Much of the state’s effort centered on migrating Telegram users to domestically developed alternatives. However, users expressed serious concerns about the security of state-sanctioned applications, and considered them to be facilitating state surveillance.

This research bulletin analyzes the aftermath of the Telegram ban in Iran and presents detailed data on the performance of Psiphon, one of the most widely used circumvention tools among Iranians. The bulletin concludes by reviewing the overarching Internet policies in Iran behind the Telegram ban. In addition, it presents the challenges that arise from the implementation of these policies, both to users and circumvention tool providers, especially as increasingly aggressive network interference becomes the norm.

Suggested Citation

Kargar, Simin and McManamen, Keith, Censorship and Collateral Damage: Analyzing the Telegram Ban in Iran (September 2018). Berkman Klein Center Research Publication No. 2018-4, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3244046 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3244046

Simin Kargar (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Keith McManamen

Psiphon ( email )


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