The Iranian government has banned Pokemon Go in their country because of ‘security concerns’.
The country’s High Council of Virtual Spaces has officially banned the Pokemon Go app stating that there are security concerns regarding the game but they wouldn’t give any deeper comment. There are current concerns about trespassing due to the nature of the game and there is already a class action lawsuit filed against Niantic, Pokemon Go’s creator, for encouraging trespassing behavior with their game. These behaviors along with other concerns brought up by the deputy attorney general Abdulsamad Khoram Abadi such as, “Because this game is a mixture of virtual and physical games, it can pose lots of problems for the country and people in terms of security,” and Alireza al-Davoud, a hardliner-linked analyst’s thoughts of,”These games can become a means for directing guided missiles and even cause disruptions to ambulances and fire trucks,” are the most likely reasons for the Pokemon Go ban.
According to the BBC Iran was already having serious thoughts on banning Pokemon Go previously but they were waiting to see if they could work out some type of deal with the game’s creator. While no one but the government knows what type of deal they were seeking many believe it could be based on limiting the amount of time a person could play, banning a specific sensitive geological location, or greater control over what information could be sent from the phone to Niantic such as geolocation or other personal information.
What will happen to Pokemon Go in Iran?
Iran has already taken a stance on banning social media such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter but plenty of the younger generations have bypassed most of these bans by using VPN’s to mask their location and have full access to otherwise banned websites. The majority of phone shops sell VPN pay as you go cards with the ability to access the banned websites so while the ban may send a message from their government it doesn’t seem to be stopping people from being able to play.
The largest roadblock for Pokemon Go players in Iran isn’t their government, it is the lack of mapping data for their location. Because PokeStops and Gyms are based on map data they youthful Pokemon masters are realizing how little data about their home is availible online. The PokeStops and Gyms area few and far between and this causes the players to group up around the few areas that actually have something to do. Mellat Park is one of these hotspots with its single PokeStop and double Gyms available, there was an evening with around 30 young adult gamers hovering around the park looking for creatures to catch and to stock back up on supplies at the PokeStop. The Iranian government usually frowns heavily on larger gatherings of young people but they didn’t take action here once they realized everyone was glued to their phones.
What about the rest of the world?
While Iran has been known to put out bans there is already talk of smaller bans in the USA. Andrew Cuomo, New York governor, has made his own remarks in a statement released on August 1 when he was discussing the possibility of a ban on Pokemon Go for sex offenders on parole, “Protecting New York’s children is priority number one and, as technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don’t become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims. These actions will provide safeguards for the players of these augmented reality games and help take one more tool away from those seeking to do harm to ourchildren,”
In Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, an Islamic leader, said on Aug 5 that Muslims shouldn’t play Pokemon Go becausethe game could be harmful and “lead to gambling”. Another religious official Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri has said, “Pokemon Go and all the Pokemon characters should be avoided as it can bring harm,” and, ““The game promoted a search for power and deities with certain powers, which could lead to gambling.”. Although Pokemon Go has not been officially released in Malaysia the overall tone from the leaders makes it seem that they may have some serious restrictions as well.