Iran wants to force foreign social media sites to store data in state

30 May 2016

Iran has joined a list of countries looking to gain control of data generated on foreign-based social media sites, with the Middle Eastern state giving a deadline for when its citizens’ data must be stored on servers within its borders.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Iran is attempting to enforce tighter controls over its millions of internet users given the state has some of the strictest rules around when it comes to accessing content online, particularly social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Just last year, Iranian writer Dr Nina Ansary spoke at Inspirefest 2015 about how many of the country’s best and brightest in the world of tech are developing methods of bypassing strict controls on social media.

Now, according to Reuters, these restrictions are tightening up again as the ruling government’s highest authority on matters of technology – the Supreme Council of Cyberspace – has issued a statement declaring that all foreign-owned social media that has data on its citizens must store that data within its borders.

The statement read: “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.”

Falling in line with other countries

Based on the “guidelines and concerns of the supreme leader”, companies in this space will be given a year to transfer this data to servers based in Iran, with questions arising as to what this will mean for the messaging app Telegram.

The instant-messaging app that emphasises increased security and encryption has an estimated 20m users in Iran – which has a population of just under 80m. 20 administrators of groups on the app were arrested in Iran towards the end of last year due to what was perceived as the spreading of “immoral content”.

This news follows the recent announcement last April from China that the state will be shutting down a number of Apple services within the country – including iTunes and iBooks – unlesss data is stored on Chinese servers.

It is safe to assume that companies that fall under this recent ruling will not comply with Iran’s demands, but none have issued a statement as of yet about their next course of action.

Women in Iran flying national flag image via thomas koch/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic