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Iranians have to use local apps because of the ban.

TEHRAN: Since they can’t use popular Western apps, Iranians have no choice but to use apps that the government backs. This is because the government is tightening internet limits for security reasons after months of protests.

Iranians are used to using virtual private networks, or VPNs, to get around limits and use websites or apps that aren’t allowed, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which are owned by the US.

During the riots that broke out after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in September after being arrested for allegedly not following the Islamic republic’s dress code for women, the government even shut down the internet completely.

Connections are back up and running, and even tech-savvy people are being told to use government-approved apps like Neshan for guidance and Snapp! to call a taxi.

The Iranian government says that as many as 89 million people have signed up for texting apps like Bale, Ita, Rubika, and Soroush. However, not everyone wants to switch.

“I don’t talk to my friends or follow the things I’m interested in on Iranian platforms,” said Mansour Roghani, who lives in the capital city of Tehran.

The former city worker said, “I use Telegram and WhatsApp, and if my VPN still lets me, I’ll check Instagram.” He added that he hasn’t updated any domestic apps to replace them.

At the height of the deadly Amini protests in October, when Instagram and WhatsApp were added to the long list of apps that were blocked, the Iranian government said it was for security reasons.

Telecommunications Minister Issa Zarepour said last month, “No one wants to limit the Internet, and we can have international platforms” if the foreign companies agree to open representative offices in Iran.

Meta, an American company that owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, says it has no plans to open offices in the Islamic republic, which is still under crushing US sanctions.