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Iran Temporarily Bans Waze App

Iranian government officials have temporarily blocked the use of the navigation app Waze throughout the country, citing the fact that it was created in Israel.

Waze was founded in 2009 by Israeli developers Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine, the Foreign Desk reports, and was originally designed as a database of maps of Israel. Since then, it has grown into a global app, and was acquired by Google in 2013. According to the Waze website, the app functions as a GPS, and its maps allow for community editing. Such editing allows users to both warn others and avoid such things as traffic jams and closed roads. 

In Iran, the app is mainly used by Uber-like ride-sharing apps. During the first week of March, several of Iran's Waze users reported connectivity problems, and others have found it impossible to download the app. The blocking of the app was initiated by Iran's Committee for Determining Offensive Content. According to the Trend News Agency, a source reported that the majority of the committee's members supported the temporary ban. 

It is reported that the Committee's decision regarding Waze has very little to do with the app's purpose -- navigation -- and more to do with its origins. According to The Foreign Desk, the Iranian state media stated that the Committee issued the temporary ban as a result of the fact that the app was developed in Israel, expressing particular concern regarding the app's "Zionist directors." 

Iran's wariness toward Waze as a result of its origins may not come as a surprise to some. The countries of Israel and Iran share a long and complicated history. According to the United States Institute of Peace, the two shared a beneficial relationship from 1948 until the beginning of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, after which their interactions began to steadily worsen. Political actions taken by both countries since this time -- as well as religious differences -- have led to the countries' current relationship, which is one marked by both tension and suspicion. 

Although Waze is currently blocked as a result of these tensions, there is a possibility that it will not remain that way. The Committee is already set to have another meeting regarding this issue on March 8. During this time, they will have a final conversation to determine the fate of the travel app, and will decide whether it will become permanently banned throughout Iran. 

Sources: The Foreign Desk, Waze, USIP, Trend News Agency / Photo credit: Rene C. Nielsen​/Flickr

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