Iran minister: WhatsApp, Viber shutdown won't solve problem

Iran's Communication Minister Mahmoud Vaezi, in response to the judiciary's request to shut down WhatsApp, Viber and Tango, said it would not solve the issue at hand.

al-monitor A WhatsApp page is seen on Facebook on a Samsung Galaxy Smartphone, Zenica, Feb. 20, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Dado Ruvic.
Arash Karami

Arash Karami


Topics covered

youths, technology, social media, iran, internet, communication

Oct 3, 2014

In response to a final order by the judiciary to close down mobile messaging services WhatsApp, Viber and Tango, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi said that it would have no effect. “Our technical studies indicate that the number of social networks such as WhatsApp, Viber and Tango is so numerous that shutting them down is not the solution,” said Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi Oct. 1 to reporters.

He added, “To think that by shutting down social media networks problems will be resolved; there is a difference of opinion that in cooperation with the judiciary we have to find a common solution for.”

The Ministry of Communications and Judiciary Deputy Gholam-Ali Mohseni-Ejei have been in a public battle over these services. Vaezi has ignored previous calls to close down WhatsApp, prompting Mohseni-Ejei on Sept. 20 to issue a public deadline of one month to close it down, along with Viber and Tango.

The judiciary appears to have been responding to a recent trend in which jokes, particularly about the founder of the Islamic Republic, former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, were being spread on these services. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps later announced that they had arrested the people who created the jokes originally.

Vaezi said that as long as the use of these mobile message services was “useful” and not for “criminal content” then the administration did not have a problem with them. He also attempted to allay the concerns of the judiciary and said that, as the judiciary had previously requested, his ministry has asked of the universities and private sector to create domestic mobile messaging services.

He also stressed there are economic benefits to people in using these services, and in regard to the concerns of the judiciary, he said, “We ask of the people that culture in the use of these networks be observed … the people themselves should give each other warnings about healthy use of these networks.”

In response to the judiciary’s letter, Vaezi said the Ministry of Communications has always encouraged officials "to increase the awareness of the people on the parts of social media that consists of criminal content and for people to use it with caution.”

He added, “That is why we [Ministry of Communications], the judiciary and all those who have sympathy for the country on this matter have the same opinion, and there are no differences between us and others. However, the responsibility of the system and the administration is to provide the environment for progress in such a way that families can easily use these tools.”

Vaezi said users of these mobile messaging services and social media websites use it “correctly and appropriately but a small number of these users do not use it correctly.” He did not elaborate on what “correct” use was. Vaezi also did not advocate a completely open Internet. He said that he favored not allowing “immoral” websites to be accessible.

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