By Haniyeh Sadat Jafariyeh, Tehran Times
Following the social unrest across Iran, starting on Thursday, the government started blocking access to social networks and messaging apps including Telegram and Instagram, while some controls were also put on Iranians' access to the Internet. As Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi announced on Monday "the restricted access to social networks in Iran amid ongoing protests against the government's economic and social policies is a temporary measure and rumors about the permanent closure of the social networks do not correspond to the reality."
Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi
(satirical artwork by Iranian daily Ghanoon)
The made restrictions, however temporary, has had some ramifications for businesses, in particular small ones, in Iran.
According to Deputy Head of New Businesses Committee of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) Afshin Kolahi, there are 10,000 to 15,000 totally virtual businesses in Iran.
While there is not an official data about the number of Telegram channels or virtual business pages, via which domestic entrepreneurs provide services to customers, advertise, do marketing and run their businesses in general, some claim that during the past few days such businesses have been terribly damaged due to the employed intelligent filtering on web and specific social media apps, including Telegram, which is the most popular social networking platform in Iran with 40 million members.
According to unofficial reports, small virtual businesses have suffered major financial damages during the past days and a chorus of dissatisfaction is being run among their owners.
The recent demonstrations began over economic grievances, while a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises are closed or are operating with half of their capacity and 3.1 million of Iranians are still unemployed. The government's decision on putting controls on the Internet access and messaging apps, under such conditions, has unfortunately exacerbated the economic conditions of virtual Iranian businesses.
President Hassan Rouhani's government, which underlines the notion of "E-government" and electronic communication, is fully aware of the dominant economic circumstances and the consequences of its made decision on economy and does not seem to be content with the ongoing situations, though.
"One of the main targets of the government has been resolving unemployment and expansion of new businesses as well as reliance on cyberspace," Azari Jahromi Tweeted on Tuesday morning, "it is my duty to apologize hundred thousands of Iranians who suffered financial losses due to recent unrest. The government is holding talks with Supreme National Security Council to remove the made-up restrictions when peace is restored."
It seems that the government, facing a dilemma, had to choose between economic benefits and security issues.
President Rouhani, in his first comments about the protests, aired on national television on Sunday night, said "people have the right to criticize", but said the authorities would not tolerate antisocial behavior. He said criticism was "different from violence and destroying public properties".
Telegram filtration in Iran was temporarily removed on Tuesday night.
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