Iran has officially announced a nation-wide ban for Pokémon Go. According to information by BBC, the nation, through its internet censorship agency, High Council of Virtual of Spaces, has sanctioned the use of the smartphone app alluding unnamed security risks. The Niantic Labs super addictive augmented reality video game has raised global security concerns, not just in Iran.
Despite a number of countries voicing their concerns over the risks and dangers posed by the game, none has been bold enough to announce an official censor. Iran is actually the first State to make such a move. The popular game has led players to forbidden places as they walk with their eyes fixed on their smartphone’s screens seeking to capture Niantic’s fascinating virtual monsters. And when such events occur in Iran, where the government restricts internet usage by the citizens, then you definitely expect the authority to act.
In fact, popular social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter leading the way, are outlawed in the country. However, the Iranian government had reportedly asked Pokémon Go creator, Niantic Inc., to work together with its authorities on ways of limiting the game before announcing the ban.
Nonetheless, the restrictions have not stopped Pokémon Go gamers. According to BBC, some players in Iran have continued playing and discussing the game on social media in the recent weeks amidst online sanctions.
Several countries have taken precautions
The game has attracted criticism for causing accidents and becoming a public nuisance at some places. In Pokémon Go gameplay, players must physically travel to real-life locations to capture Pokémon. As they explore the game’s map, they battle other players at Pokémon gyms as well as retrieve items like eggs, potions, and Poke Balls at PokéStops. In real life, these are locations of public interest like restaurants, shopping malls, and museums. As a result, gamers have also been found straying in government restricted locations like military bases.
In Israel, the military has prohibited soldiers and officers from playing the game in military bases. Unlike Iran, Israel gave reasons to substantiate the action. According to the Israeli army, the game activates phone cameras and GPS services that may lead to leakage of delicate information on military bases. Besides, criminals could extract information from soldiers’ phones by tricking them into downloading phony applications impersonating the game.
In Hong Kong and Indonesia, police officers on duty are not allowed to play Pokémon Go over security concerns as well. According to South China Morning Post, police in Hong Kong’s New Territories North banned officers on duties such as conducting raids or surveillance from playing the game. In addition, a French player was arrested at a military base in Indonesia.
Elsewhere, a Palestinian player admitted that he run into an obstacle while in the hunt for a Pokémon which was wandering Palestinian Legislative Council, a restricted building run by the Islamic militant group from Gaza, Hamas. Besides, gamers have fallen victims of danger. A number of them have been robbed, others have lost their ways running into objects, and in one occasion a gamer fell off a 100-foot cliff.
New York State, on the other side, is majorly concerned with the security of young players who might be lured by sex criminals on parole. Consequently, the States’ Governor, Andrew Cuomo asked Niantic Inc. to make sure sex pests do not lure young victims to their locations. On the last week’s directive, he ordered the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervisions to bar the state’s 3000 sex offenders released on bail from using Pokémon Go and games of similar nature. In addition, the state has asked Niantic to cross-check the state-provided list of sex offenders with the players’ list. Finally, New York has warned all sex offenders released on parole against turning their homes into Poke Gyms or Stops.
In some countries, the game has been termed sacrilegious owing to its popularity. According to Saudi Arabian media last month’s report, the nation’s top clerical body revived a 2001 fatwa (religious ruling) pronounced 16 years ago against an earlier Pokémon card game. A top cleric said the 16-year old decree applied to the new augmented reality game. However, the government denied the claims the following day saying it has not deemed the game un-Islamic.