Roskomnadzor, the Russian state telecommunication’s watchdog, began the process of blocking Telegram. The move came after a court on Friday approved the move after Telegram failed to comply with an order to give the Russian authorities access to users’ messages.
Telegram did not contest Friday’s hearing, directing their lawyers not to attend in protest of the rushed process. The trial had been scheduled just the previous day. The court took only 18 minutes to agree to Roskomnadzor’s request.
Telegram challenged a 2016 law which meant that back doors had to be provided to allow the Federal Security Service (FSB) access to encrypted communications. Telegram is widely used in Russia and has 200m monthly users worldwide. They include high profile Kremlin figures, such as Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson. He announced his daily conference call on Monday through Telegram but later made clear that an alternative app would be used once Telegram stops functioning in Russia. The Russian foreign office said that it would shift to Viber, a competing messaging app.
In the wake of the news, Pavel Durov, founder of Telegram, tweeted:
It is telling that authoritarian governments (e.g. Russia) are trying to block Telegram over encryption, but are more relaxed when it comes to other encrypted messaging apps.
He also founded social network Vkontakte, which has over 460m users. He was forced out of the company in 2014 when he refused to hand over data on protestors. On his departure, he accused cronies of Vladimir Putin of taking over the company. He fled the country and has not returned since.
Telegram raised $1.7bn last month in an Initial Coin Offering. There is no monetisation method planned for the app beyond this, and it does not collect data on users’ location or how they use the app. It has been firmly committed to privacy, which has seen it being recommended by ISIS to its members.
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