Iran bill seeks to ban all 'foreign messaging apps'
The bill, signed by 40 MPs, punishes anyone involved in distributing unlicensed social messaging apps, describing prison terms of up two years for violators, and fines of nearly $2000.
The bill targets anyone reproducing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), or other internet circumvention tools.
Iran has a history of heavy-handed internet censorship. Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are blocked in the country, according to Radio Farda, despite officials' prolific use of the platforms as propaganda tools.
The motion, which is called "Organising Social Media Messaging", aims to replace foreign messaging apps with Iran-made ones and proposes the formation of a committee charged with licensing and monitoring the alternatives.
Many of the Islamic Republic’s state organs make up the planned committee, according to the motion, including the IRGC's intelligence ministry and police, as well as the state-run radio and TV service.
Half of the shares of any government-approved substitute must be owned by an Iranian citizen, according to the bill, which requires the app is hosted within the country.
Cyberspace in Iran has emerged as a key battleground for ruling authorities. Hardliners have been obsessed with regulating social media - a place where anti-regime sentiments can inspire real-world dissidence.
Telegram, which is the most popular messaging app in Iran, is filtered by the government.
Last March, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSP) named Iran’s cyber policing body among 20 of the world’s worst governmental and non-governmental silencers of social media usage.
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