Iran's Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced earlier today that the country’s judicial authorities each week filter between 16,000 and 20,000 Telegram accounts. He added that this was still not sufficient and urged that “a national apparatus must be set up” to increase the monitoring and control of the popular social media application in the country. “When the server of Telegram is outside the country and we can’t supervise it, why should we place our information on it?”

Comment: Authorities in Iran have recently stepped up crackdown on Internet activism as the country is gearing up for the presidential elections slated for May. The BBC Persian reports that 15 social media activists have been arrested in recent days alone – prompting several reformist lawmakers to call on President Hassan Rouhani to probe their cases. Earlier this month, Iran’s Deputy Police Chief Brig. Gen. Eskandar Momeni announced that the country’s Cyber Police has increased its presence and activity in major population centers across the country to monitor the cyberspace and prevent cybercrimes ahead of the presidential elections. Read moreover, the Basij paramilitary forces have also taken an increasingly active role in monitoring and controlling the country’s cyberspace. Earlier this month, Iran’s Deputy Attorney General Abdolsamad Khoramabadi announced “18,000 people [Basij members] voluntarily monitor the cyberspace and report any violations by websites and [online] social networks to the office of the Attorney General.”

Internet activism played a key role in the mobilization of anti-regime protests that rocked the Islamic Republic after the controversial 2009 presidential elections. As a result, the Iranian regime established new government agencies to tighten its control over the internet. In 2011, the Iranian government created the Cyber Police department; and a year later, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the establishment of a new government agency, called Supreme Council of Cyberspace, in an effort to step up the country’s crackdown on Iranian internet users. And as the May presidential elections are approaching, the Iranian authorities have further increased monitoring and controlling the country’s cyberspace