TEHRAN, Aug. 8 (UPI) — Iran became the first country to ban the Pokémon Go mobile phone game over unspecified security concerns.
The decision to block access to the game was made by the Iranian High Council of Virtual Spaces, the government agency regulating the Internet, which has used filtering software to reduce connectivity speeds to suspect websites in the past.
“Any game that wants to operate nationwide in Iran needs to obtain permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and the Pokémon Go app has not yet requested such a permission,” Abolhasan Firouzabadi, the council chief said, the semi-official Iranian news agency Insa reported. Officials hinted they would allow the game in Iran if its data servers were transferred to the country, a suggestion thus far declined by Pokeman Go operators.
“There are many problems with the game and security-wise, it can create problems for the country and our people,” senior judicial official Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, told the semi-official news agency Tasnim last week, the Guardian reported Monday. He added that the game posed a security dilemma and that the country’s intelligence apparatus approved of the ban.
Governments have issued safety warnings and partial bans on playing the game. Indonesia forbids police officers from playing the game while on duty, and New York State denied access to the game, popular among the young and tech-savvy, by 3,000 registered sex offenders on parole. But Iran’s national ban is unprecedented. It comes as the game expanded to 15 new markets in Asia in August.
Pokemon Go was first launched in the United States in July, and then released in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Europe. It is still not available in India, China or South Korea.