“To Block Or Not To Block?” The “Telegram” Question in Russia
The story of Telegram starts in 2013, created by the Russian Brothers Pavel and Nikolay Durov. Telegram is a cloud-based messenger application located in United Kingdom. This Application allows sending texts, photos, videos, audio files and stickers between the users from the entire world. Durov Brothers were also creators of other famous Russian Social Media called VKontakte (VK) but later sold to Russian Internet giant MegaFon Group.
Telegram is winning a big auditory, nearly 200 million of active users, from all over the world and 15 million only from Russia.
Why does Russia want to block Telegram?
The first attempt to block Telegram was in 2015. Russian Government explained this measure as “in order to protect the country interest and reduce terrorism-propaganda” that is present on this messenger platform. It is known that multiple channels and groups on Telegram are supporting propaganda of terrorism and other restricted subjects.
As we know, the Russian Personal Data Protection Law introduces an obligation for all Russian-data operators to ensure the recording, storage, any change and extraction of personal data of Russian citizens with the use of data centers located on the territory of the Russian Federation. So, in this way, from 2015 Telegram agreed to be registered on territory of Russia in order to avoid the ban.
In 2016, a new Law project of Yarovaya, in order to combat terrorism propaganda and communication on social media includes the obligation to register at Roskomandzor (Russian Control Order of Data), if this requirement is not fulfilled, such services as Telegram in Russia may be blocked. Telegram registered at Roskomandzor in June, 2017.
Furthermore, instant messengers need to identify their users and also transfer the encryption keys to FSB (Federal Security Service of Russian Federation), so they could assure the country security. But, Telegram creator, Pavel Durov, did not provide the encryption keys, in order to defend users’ personal data, and paid a 14 000 dollars fine. “If the FSB had limited the request for information about several terrorists, then its demand would fit into the framework of the Constitution. However, we are talking about the transfer of universal encryption keys for the purpose of subsequent uncontrolled access to the correspondence of an unlimited number of people”, says Durov.
It’s like saying “I have your password, but I won’t control it, I just have the possibility to do it”.
The Consequences After Blocking Telegram
Telegram was banned on April 2018 for few days. In Russia, protest has started with the words: “Keep your hands away from Internet” and paper airplanes (Telegram Logo) were launched to stand up for Telegram.
Pavel Durov incites Telegram users by giving them a step-by-step tutorial; how to use VPN and proxy’s to have access to the messenger application. However, the messenger continued to work for users without using any means to bypass locks.
The Russian telecommunication regulator had requested Google and Apple to delete the Telegram messenger service from their application stores, but no positive response. In July, Roskomandzor had blocked nearly 16 million IP-addresses operated by Amazon, Google and other hosts; in order to private the access of Russian users. From July 2018, there were no other actions, till recently, the service seems to have started actively blocking the messenger again.
On Monday, 21st January 2019, Russian users were having problems to connect and access Telegram. On the official web-site of Roskamandzor, announced about adding few more thousands new IP addresses to the“black-list”. These IP Addresses belong to proxy servers that allowed a more stable work of Telegram and through which the instant messenger bypasses blocking.
We see that Russia is very determinate, so the further faith of Telegram remains unknown.