Jan 8, 2015 · 1 minute

Iran's judiciary has ordered the Iranian government to block access to WhatsApp, LINE, and Tango because the services can be used to share "immoral and un-Islamic" content. IRNA, the country's official news station, claims the apps will be blocked in a few hours.

The judiciary has been trying to get Iran's government to block access to these services since September 2014. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, himself a user of WhatsApp, has resisted the orders because he believes only the service's content need be censored.

Iran has a complicated relationship with technology. Rouhani has Twitter and Facebook accounts even though both services have long been banned in Iran (and its citizens have been imprisoned for posting to Facebook) and he seems to support messaging services.

Even the country's cultural minister said in November 2013 that the government should lift its ban on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Now the country is being forced not only to leave that ban in place, but to also block its citizens from using other tools.

Unfortunately, Iran isn't alone in its desire to prevent its citizens from accessing social websites. Blocking them -- or simply severing the entire country's access to the Web -- has become increasingly common in countries like Iraq, Thailand, India, and Turkey.

Those blockades are often inspired by a need to prevent information from spreading before controversial anniversaries, important elections, or continued advances by an extremist group intent on establishing a caliphate in portions of both Iraq and Syria.

That doesn't appear to be the case here, but it's suspicious that Iran's judiciary felt the need to crack down on the government's feet-dragging right after reported extremists killed staffers at Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine known for its disdain for religion. Perhaps Iranians were sharing Hebdo's images as a show of solidarity? I don't know.

Either way, it's clear that Iran's judiciary intends for these services to finally be blocked from the country, and there doesn't appear to be much Rouhani can do to stop it. It's a good thing many Iranians know how to bypass the government's censorship tools.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]