Message app Telegram blocked by court in Russian Federation

Pauline Obrien
April 15, 2018

The ruling comes a week after state communications regulator Roskomnadzor filed a lawsuit aimed at limiting access to the app within the country. "Regardless of the block, Telegram will be able to communicate notices to all Russian users to keep them informed of the developments". Many Russian authorities also use the service-one employee suggested to Reuters that they will circumvent the ban using VPN services.

Telegram, a popular app developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, argues that Russia's FSB intelligence service is violating consumer rights, while authorities say the app has been used by violent extremists. A request sent to the firm by the authorities to hand over the encryption keys by 4 of April was not honoured. The company is insulated from the power that local governments typically have over IT companies because it has the "luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales", Mr Durov said in a message posted on his Telegram channel.

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Russian Federation implemented strict anti-terrorism laws in 2016, which required messaging services to provide authorities with the ability to decrypt messages. After an 18-minute hearing on Friday, Judge Yulia Smolina ruled that access to the app would be blocked in Russian Federation until Telegram cooperates with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and provides the decryption keys. The app´s creator Pavel Durov banned lawyers representing Telegram from attending the court hearing so as not to legitimise it.

Even after courts ordered Telegram to act in accordance with the law and grant access to the FSB, Telegram refused.

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Telegram is widely used across Russian Federation and other former Soviet states, and in the Middle East. It claims that "Telegram is more secure than mass market messengers like WhatsApp and Line". President Vladimir Putin's press office reportedly uses the Telegram as well.

Telegram, a telecommunications app has become very popular especially in the cryptocurrency world.

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Telegram's service has faced temporary blocks in Iran - over content being spread on the platform that the regime dislikes. Telegram has been found guilty of failure to store and (or) furnish information on users and their messages to law enforcement agencies.

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