By Saeid Jafari, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
“A grandson of the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been disqualified from running for the Assembly of Experts”; “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has reached a deadlock”; “The bodybuilding champion of Iran and the world has been killed in a street fight”; and “Following in the footsteps of Djibouti and Sudan, Tunisia has also severed its ties with Iran.”
These are some of the stories that have been widely circulated among Iranians in recent weeks — but they weren’t reported by any of the licensed Iranian media outlets. Thanks to the power of social media, where ordinary Iranians can produce and broadcast their own news, many of these stories find their way into people’s homes. The same, unfortunately, also goes for mere rumors.
First it was Facebook, and then the smartphone messaging apps Viber and Line. Now, however, the hottest communication tool among Iranians is Telegram. It has more advanced features than its predecessors, and enjoys a high level of influence in Iranian society. Information and Communications Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said there are roughly 13 million to 14 million Telegram users in Iran.
More recent surveys, however, put this figure at over 20 million. The simplicity and ease associated with using Telegram has prompted users to see themselves as a rival of licensed media outlets. In fact, many governmental organizations are now using Telegram to create a bridge to communicate with their audiences.