Iran Blocks Instagram, Telegram As Anti Government Protests Spread

Iran on Saturday lifted restrictions on the messaging app Telegram, the state news agency IRNA said.

Iran's authorities had blocked the popular service as security forces sought to contain the most widespread public protests in the country since 2009.

"An informed source announced that the filtering of the Telegram messenger has been ended and it is being used by users," IRNA reported.

At least 22 people died and 1,000 people were arrested in the anti-government protests that began in late December.

Demonstrations, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, brought more than a week of unrest across the country. (Associated Press)

As the protests ebbed, the government last week lifted restrictions imposed on Instagram, one social media tool used to mobilize protesters. But access to the more widely used messaging app Telegram was still blocked, suggesting authorities remained uneasy about the possibility of further protests.

Telegram, with 40 million users in Iran, in late December shut down a channel that Tehran had accused of encouraging violence. But it declined to block other channels, prompting Iranian authorities to block access to the app.

Many Iranians access Telegram using virtual private networks (VPNs) and other tools to bypass government filtering of the Internet, residents said. But officials said hundreds of companies using the app for their marketing and sales had been hard-hit by the social media restrictions, and President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying about 100,000 people had lost their jobs.