Iran Criminalizes Support For Or Use Of Telegram’s ‘Gram Token’

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The Iranian government has warned its citizens against the use of Gram, a crypto token issued by instant messaging platform Telegram.

Criminalizing any support or connection with the token comes months after the country’s judiciary moved to impose a ban on the messaging app.

The Gram token could ‘disrupt’ Iran’s economy

The warning states that aiding the crypto would constitute a criminal act, and according to a news article in the Tehran Times, this was intended to further Iran’s national security.

The news outlet reports that the warning was issued by the country’s Secretary of Criminal Content Definition Task Force, Javad Javidnia.

Javidnia reiterated that offering whatever kind of support to the Gram token amounts to a violation of national security regulations. Additionally, the government disapproves of the new coin because its potential use could be disruptive to the country’s economy.

In issuing the warning, Javidnia re-emphasized that last year’s ban on Telegram remains and that the move was aimed at protecting the country.

Imposing a ban on Telegram, an app founded by two Russian entrepreneurs comes as a result of the realization that its activities could pose serious economic threats.

The ban on Telegram

Iran banned the messaging app in May 2018, over seven months ago. The country’s judiciary gave the order that declared Telegram illegal following calls from government officials and political circles.

It came after the social media platform purportedly offered its support to the opposition. The main accusation was that it had been used to cause widespread unrest within the country.

At the time of prohibiting the use of the app, calls were also made regarding the fact that the social network was undermining the economy.

One of the officials who held this view was Hassan Firouzabadi, the secretary of the Islamic Republic’s High Council for Cyberspace.

At the time Iran banned Telegram, the platform had successfully raised over $1.7 billion from its initial coin offering (ICO). It was one of the largest, only surpassed when EOS completed a year-long token sale that netted $4 billion.

According to Firouzabadi, the launch of Gram had the potential to undermine Iran’s national currency rial and could see the country lose up to $50 billion in capital outflows.

He said that Telegram’s position as the “dominant messenger” in the country spelled bad news for the national currency, especially after the social network had announced that it would become “an economic platform.”

Interestingly, Telegram had almost 40 million users in Iran by May last year, making up nearly 50 percent of the country’s population. Additionally, over 60 percent of Iran’s internet bandwidth is reportedly used up on the messaging app.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei both quit Telegram in May. At the time, the government had issued a presidential decree that declared it illegal for civil servants to use foreign messenger apps.

Tehran has looked to develop its own digital currency, with the government keen on using the central bank-issued crypto to evade U.S.-led economic sanctions.

However, that move could yet hit a snag following the introduction of a bill in Congress seeking additional sanctions on Iran’s national cryptocurrency.


Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile assets and are very risky investments. Do your research and consult an investment professional before investing. Never invest more than you can afford to lose. Never borrow money to invest in cryptocurrencies.

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