Foreign social media and messaging apps operating in Iran have one year to transfer their data within Iranian borders.
Iran has long been controlling the Internet activity of its citizens, blocking access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and censoring various content. Some users managed to bypass the limitations by resorting to virtual private networks (VPNs), but Iran is cracking down on social media.
As Reuters reports, Iran demanded that all foreign messaging and social media apps transfer data and activity associated with Iranian citizens within the country's borders in one year. The country's Supreme Council of Cyberspace reportedly made the announcement on Sunday, May 29, arguing that the new measures stem from the "guidelines and concerns of the supreme leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Foreign messaging companies active in the country are required to transfer all data and activity linked to Iranian citizens into the country in order to ensure their continued activity," demanded the Council.
To transfer data within the country's borders, foreign social media and messaging apps would need to establish data centers in Iran. It remains to be seen whether companies will be willing to make such efforts or the apps will simply become off-limits for Iranian citizens.
At the same time, these stricter regulations could also have a major impact on secure messaging app Telegram, which counts more than 100 million users worldwide and is widely popular in Iran.
Reuters points out that Telegram has roughly 20 million users in Iran, but that doesn't mean it gets a free pass in the country. Back in November, for instance, authorities arrested the administrators of more than 20 Telegram groups for distributing "immoral content."
With the new regulations, citizens are now concerned that if Telegram establishes data centers in Iran, the authorities would get access to users' Telegram activity and make even more arrests. Telegram is not the only app to draw attention in the country.
Iran has some pretty harsh rules in place, and online activity, including on social media, is closely monitored. Just earlier this month, Iranian authorities placed eight women under arrest for posting Instagram photos of themselves without a headscarf on.