The order stemmed from a private lawsuit, but Iranian netizens reportedly still had access to the photo-sharing app at the time of publication. The Iranian government blocked Instagram for 12 hours on Dec. 29, 2013, and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are also officially inaccessible throughout the nation. This latest censorship comes just a week after the government in Iran blocked access to the hosting platform Google Sites and several Wikipedia pages.
At this point, it's unclear whether the Ministry of Telecommunications will follow the court order and block Instagram, a social network that is extremely popular in Iran. Over the past few days, however, Iranians already reporting disruptions in the service, with many complaining that they couldn't view pictures on the platform.
Instagram declined to comment on the matter.
The problem apparently didn't come from a government's decision; rather, it stemmed from Facebook moving Instagram's distribution network to its own servers, which are blocked in Iran, according to Internet researcher Collin Anderson.
Mashable's Instagram account looked like this on Friday from Iran. The screenshot was taken by Internet freedom researcher Nariman Gharib, who is based in London, but had access to a computer within the country.
Iran has also been pushing for a local Instagram substitute, Lenzor, launched by Iranian social network Cloob.com, according to Gharib. The government has been promoting Lenzor because the servers are inside of Iran and can be better controlled by the government.
Iranians with access to Twitter through various network workarounds and those in the diaspora have already started protesting the potential block using the hashtag #IranNetFreedom.
The Iranian government's relationship with social media is a web of contradictions. Though Facebook and Twitter are officially blocked in the country, around four million Iranians use such workarounds to use regularly log onto Facebook; even President Hassan Rouhani is an active Twitter user. Rouhani also has an Instagram account, as does Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
When Rouhani was elected in 2013, many saw it as a sign for more Internet freedoms — but if anything, tensions seem to have intensified. Iranian politicians are reportedly still divided on how much freedom their citizens should be allowed on social media.
When the Iranian government first blocked Instagram at the end of last year, Mashable reportedthat the app's new private-messaging feature might have given politicians cause for concern; since the platform is private, there would no ability to control (or even see) what people say. But the problem may be just be that Instagram has grown too popular.
Whether Instagram is blocked for an extended period remains unclear, but without the photo-sharping app, just about the only social network Iranians have left is Google+.