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We’re used to hearing about Russia’s ongoing fight with Telegram, but it isn’t the only country that has a problem with the messaging service. Iran blames it for spreading the civil unrest that caused massive protests in December. As such, it is promoting a new domestically produced communications app that comes complete with “Death to America” emojis.
Around 50 million Iranian use Telegram, partly because of its focus on encryption and privacy, but the country looks set to follow in Russia’s footsteps and ban the service. Authorities want citizens to replace it with Soroush, which has about 5 million users but lacks end-to-end encryption.
Ayatollah Khamenei quit Telegram this week and has assured people that their privacy won’t be compromised if they move to Soroush, though most users seem far from convinced—Iranians joke that the app’s three ticks represent the message being sent, received, and intercepted by the country’s security services.
Some of the emojis in the Iranian-made app includes a series of women in traditional chadors holding placards. One shows the country’s Supreme Leader, while the others wish death on America, Israel, and the Freemasons.
Iran temporarily blocked Telegram in January during the anti-government protests. The app’s Russian founder, Pavel Durov, says it will always "stand for freedom and privacy." The app was banned in Russia earlier this month for not handing over its encryption keys, and the same may happen in Iran. The country’s Supreme Cyberspace Council has already banned public institutions from using foreign apps, though Iran's Supreme Leader, president, and other officials are still posting on their accounts on Twitter, according to the BBC, and Khamenei's office has a Facebook page.