Iran becomes first country to outlaw Pokémon Go, others consider restrictions

Iran’s Supreme Council of Virtual Space officially outlawed the popular mobile game Pokémon Go last week, citing security risks for the country’s children after reports in July said the government had requested the California-based software developer Niantic Inc. make necessary changes to address concerns.

The Middle Eastern nation which President George W. Bush accused of being part of the world’s “axis of evil” in 2002, now becomes the first country to ban the game outright, although other governments have put restrictions in place or said they are still studying its effects.

Indonesia, for example, passed a law restricting police officers from playing the game while on the job, and New York prohibits the state’s approximately 3,000 registered sex offenders that are currently on parole from participating.

None except Iran have issued a nationwide injunction however, as even Saudi Arabia allows the game, save for a Muslim cleric there who announced that a fatwa first decreed in 2000 banning the Pokémon Go card game also applied to the mobile app.

In late-July, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, said officials “will monitor the [Pokémon] situation . . . And if it’s really something which we should be concerned about, I think MDA [the Media Development Authority] will definitely decide . . . if the game is really needed here”.

Pokémon Go had previously only been available in Iran on encrypted private networks, as all online games must be approved by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance before public infrastructure can transmit relevant data. Virtual Space counsel head Abolhasan Firouzabadi said the game was deemed to be “not appropriate” because it uses “location-based virtual reality technology.”

Currently available for download in over 35 countries, including locations as exotic to Americans as Guatemala, Fiji, Palau and the Falkland Islands, officials in Russia and Egypt have accused Pokémon Go of being an information gathering tool created by U.S. spy agencies.


[BBC] [The Straits Times] [AP] [CNET] [Photo courtesy iChase/YouTube]