Telegram and the war in Ukraine
Telegram was invented in 2013 by Pavel Dourov, a Russian computer scientist with his brother Nikolai, a mathematician. Telegram is a social network, a real communications relay but also a nerve centre for disinformation. It is the 5th largest messaging service in the world with more than 500 million users, and the most downloaded application in Russia with 4.4 million downloads since the beginning of the war with Ukraine.
Telegram had 100 million active users at the beginning of 2016 and 500 million active users at the beginning of 2021.
- What is Telegram?
Like WhatsApp, Telegram allows you to communicate with your loved ones, either in private messages (one-to-one) or in groups. However, these two applications are similar in that Telegram also allows the creation of public information channels, which can bring together millions of people.
Telegram allows the creation of groups with up to 200,000 members, compared to 256 on WhatsApp.
- A network that has been in the spotlight since the start of the war in Ukraine
As early as last March, the Kremlin quickly blocked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Telegram became the only channel for information and communication, which Ukraine quickly seized upon to deal with the disinformation Russia was displaying.
“Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the number of groups linked to the war has increased tenfold,” says Israeli researcher Oded Vanunu of the Tel Aviv-based Check Point Research Institute.
This network quickly became popular in Russia, especially for political discussions. The Kremlin has therefore launched itself on this medium on which it publishes many propaganda messages every day.
Faced with this battle of information, the Telegram user charter assures “protect your private exchanges against spying by any third party, such as officials or employers. The application also pledges not to respond to government requests “for censorship”, with the exception of the fight against terrorism. It promises never to lift the anonymity of its users and claims to protect them.
But what is the reality?
- Is Telegram such a secure network?
On several occasions, the Moscow court had ordered the closure of the site on the grounds that Telegram had refused to provide the FSB, the Federal Security Service, the Russian secret service, with the keys to decrypt users’ messages. However, despite these threats of closure, the network is still not blocked.
Recently, the creator of Signal, Moxie Marlinspike, publicly questioned the network. He called attention to the fact that even after deleting the application and reinstalling it on another smartphone, your browsing history and contacts will reappear. This is because Telegram does not encrypt all messages end-to-end by default and stores everything on its servers.
In order to protect or defend himself against any assumption of disclosure, Pavel Dourov, of Russian origin, recalled that his mother had Ukrainian origins.
Therefore, the security of Telegram depends entirely on the honesty of its administrators…
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