Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration in December driven by anger over economic problems.

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Iranian authorities have ordered internet service providers in Iran to block access to Telegram, a secure messaging service linked to organizers of anti-government protests, the Associated Press reported Monday.

State TV reported that a Tehran prosecutor ordered both the mobile and desktop versions to be blocked so that restrictions couldn't be bypassed using a virtual private network, the news service reported. The app was still operational Monday evening.

Blocking the app, which is used by 40 million Iranians, or roughly half the country's population, would hobble Iranians' ability to communicate. The app has grown in popularity recently due to its reputation for being immune from government surveillance.

Telegram couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The app was used by organizers of anti-government protests in December and January, during which 25 people were killed and 5,000 arrested. The app was temporarily shut down by Iran at the end of December, but some users continued to access the service through proxies and VPNs.

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