Are popular messaging apps going to fall under the control of Baku?
Passions about messaging apps are rising worldwide. On a regular basis politicians come forward with the desire to limit the capabilities of texting apps or ban them altogether. This June, popular communication services like WhatsApp, Skype and even social network Facebook were temporarily blocked in Azerbaijan.
Earlier this week, the Minister of Communications and Information Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ali Abbasov, made an official statement regarding the situation at hand. According to the statement, the activities of these applications on the territory of Azerbaijan must be licensed, since the services provided by them are that of telecommunications. However, he noted that the licensing of the aforementioned apps and social media networks will not affect the users. We have yet to find out whether this is true.
Azerbaijan to read private user correspondence?
Let’s face the truth: the Azerbaijani authorities obviously won’t stop at demanding a license. Even today they are taking steps to gather all social media and VoIP telephony user data, disguising it as cybersecurity measures. But it is apparent that they just want to get steady access to the personal information of the citizens.
Many people criticize this move from Azerbaijan, drawing parallels with Iran and China. The people of Azerbaijan have almost no free access to information due to a number of government-imposed restrictions. Nevertheless, if we were to look at what global politicians have to say on the issue, we’d see that there are attempts to impose similar restrictions from Great Britain, India, Russian and Vietnam. The fact that people are able to communicate in confidence is clearly bothering a whole lot of other people.
The Minister’s advisor, Mushfig Amirov, tried to explain the logic behind the policy by saying that US companies, that make a profit off of the residents of Azerbaijan, are obliged to open up representation offices in Azerbaijan and pay local taxes. These arguments, however, sound unconvincing.
All this suggests that the Special State Protection Service of Azerbaijan, responsible for blocking messaging apps and social networks back in June, will continue working on this “issue” in the future. All we can do is wait to see how WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype will react to the challenge.