To organize the ongoing protests and anti-government demonstrations in Iran, the Iranian people have been using social media. It has enabled them to arrange protests and to share information.

The most popular application used is Telegram and it is said that more than 50 percent of the population have used it. The messaging application is easy to use and people can share videos and information. The service is also encrypted.

However, faced with the threat of the people, the Iranian regime has taken great pains to hamper the ability of people to protest and rally, and it is planning to replace Telegram and other such applications with one that it can manage in the way it wants.

It is quite remarkable that the Iranian people have been able to coordinate their protests in the way that they have. It just goes to show, not just the power of the people, but also the extent of their anger and how deeply engrained it is all across the country.

During Friday prayers last week, a leading cleric, Mullah Ahmad Khatami, admitted the role of social media and applications such as Telegram, saying that “cyberspace (…) was kindling the fire of the battle”. He said: “It was cyberspace that every moment said where protesters were gathering, and what slogans they were chanting.”

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Social media have always been a great threat to the Iranian regime and it was in 2009 that it saw its power in action. With information, images, videos and messages shared on social media during the protests, the world could really see what was happening inside the country. At the time, people were angry following the presidential election and they used all means possible to make their voices heard. Facebook and Twitter were two of the most popular platforms. However, when the uprising settled down the Iranian regime banned both.

People are used to this kind of suppression. Over the years, the regime has taken, or tried to take, more control over the private lives of the Iranian people.

Khatami said last week: “We support a cyberspace whose key is in the hands of the (ruling) system. I’m saying this on behalf of the people: the nation does not support a cyberspace which America holds the key to.” He claimed that the people of Iran are being influenced by the United States and the U.S. president, because of Trump’s tweets in support of the protests in Iran.

Like elsewhere in the world, Iranians are very attached to their smartphones, despite the extreme poverty, and they see them as a way to gain freedom. They are able to find ways around the bans and still manage to use banned applications such as Twitter and Facebook.

It is evident that the regime is clutching at straws and we will see that it is impossible for it to outwit the powerful population.🔷