Iraq’s Ministry of Communications has lifted the ban on messaging service Telegram. 

The ban, which was originally placed due to data protection concerns, was lifted after the app provider communicated with the Iraqi government to “[detect] the parties that leaked citizens’ data”. 

The ministry claims that Telegram has also committed to communicating with Iraqi authorities in the future. 

Iraq has received widespread criticism for its social media laws. Amnesty International’s, for instance, recently condemned the country’s ban on the terms ‘homosexuality’ and ‘gender’ in the media. 

In lifting the Telegram ban, the Ministry of Communications stated that whilst it does not stand against freedom of expression, it does expect social media companies to “respect” the country’s law and security. 

Telegram has emphasised the importance of free speech and assembly that the encrypted app offers its users. The app’s provider stated that it has played a “prominent role” in global pro-democracy movements and organisations in countries such as Russia, Myanmar and Iran. 

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By GlobalData

Explaining why Telegram is so widely used among protesters, GlobalData analyst Amelia Connor-Afflick states that it can help “mitigate the targeting of dissidents by preventing surveillance”. 

“Repressive governments frequently use digital authoritarian practices to further their power and control over populations,” she explains.

Telegram’s privacy and encryption empowers users to “criticise governments and organise politically without fear of repercussion,” Connor-Afflick adds.

She points to the use of Telegram in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, where the app’s private messaging has proved vital in the free-flow of information, allowing for war crimes to be documented in real time. 

Despite the brief ban, Iraqi militia groups and protestors have continued to access and use the app via VPN.

Telegram only requires a user’s phone number to sign up. Alongside its fully encrypted messaging and channels service, the app also has an ongoing bug bounty programme, which invites users to submit privacy bugs they find on the app.

Telegram’s 2015 competition, which invited users to attempt to break its encryption, ended with no winners. To date, the app’s developers claim on their website, no way to break the Telegram encryption has ever been found.