Iran Bans Pokemon Go Over Security Concerns
The decision was taken by the High Council of Virtual Spaces, the official body monitoring online activities.
When the game was first released for Iran, the foundation had warned that if the game’s officials fail to accept Iran’s conditions it will be blocked. The conditions put forward by the Iranian body was as easy to predict as it was with the response; moving the server inside Iran and coordinating on what locations should be tagged as destinations.
Despite Pokemon Go’s refusal to comply, Tehran still signaled that it is open to negotiation as officials made it clear the country was only concerned about the security aspects of the game, as opposed to the cultural ones.
“Pokemon Go lacks contents that could lead to its ban and could be permissible in the light of our redlines and examples specified,” Iranian media quoted the country’s Computer and Video Games Foundation’s deputy for supervision and assessment, Javad Amiri, as saying earlier this week. “But since it is more than mere entertainment, an inquiry from other authorities including security institutions is required to issue the final permission for the game”.
Now, Iran’s deputy Attorney General Abdolsamad Khoramabadi says the Games foundation might have failed to consider every aspect of the game.
Khoramabadi, also the secretary of the Workgroup for Identification of Criminal Content, says the workgroup agreed to block the game after taking into account all the aspects of the game with no disapprovals.
He further said the combination of the virtual and the real in the game brings ‘security problems’ for the country. “Iran is not the only country opposing Pokemon Go and many countries have found it dangerous and it has been blocked in many places,” he added. Circumventing the block to log into the game is not considered a crime.
Game licensing is processed after a domestic publisher applies while standards specified by the Entertainment Software Rating Association (ESRA), a self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings, must be complied. However, the country’s judiciary and security officials are authorized to undo permissions in cases of complicated nature.
Iran is not alone in its worries over security related to the game. Its regional rival, the Saudi Arabia, has similar concerns. A leading Saudi cleric said a fatwa (religious ruling) issued against an earlier Pokemon card game also applied to the new mixed-reality app. Saudi Arabian clerics have called the game “un-Islamic”.
The 16-year-old edict said the game contained "forbidden images" and violated an Islamic ban on gambling. Earlier this week, authorities in New York state said they would ban some 3,000 registered sex offenders from playing Pokemon Go while they are on parole. The ban is aimed at safeguarding the children who play the game.
Iranian media are either watching in quiet or defending the move. Emad Rahmani, MA in political sciences and a game developer with a portfolio themed with Iran’s contemporary history including his best-known The Way of Love: Sub Zero, agrees the game as its own perils but believes that blocking is no solution.
“When you enter military zones, they access the data on your cellular. It means they can capture the data right away,” he told Students News Network (SNN).
Indonesia has banned military and police officers from playing the game while on duty, and a French player was arrested last month after straying on to a military base while trying to catch Pokemon.
“Negative approaches will not work. A wave has risen and experience has proved that we cannot resist such waves,” Rahmani added. He finds the best way to immunize Iran in raising awareness. “The state TV should intervene and let the experts talk”.
Despite restrictions on internet usage Iranians on social media have discussed playing Pokemon Go in recent weeks. Some believe that Iran’s blocking approach has been reduced to a list of web pages the government does not approve. “If it is blocked, they will use anti-blocking as was the case when there was no Iran sever. So when we know there are such solutions, we would better stop deceiving ourselves,” Rahmani reiterated.
A pro-principlism cyberspace experts, Alireza Al-Davoud, told Young Journalists Club (YJC) that the game’s developer Brian McClendon is the man in charge of Google Earth and that raises concern that the game could be a spyware, because Google has a record of espionage, particularly in its Earth services.