Is the end in sight for Telegram in Russia? Following the unfavorable court ruling by a court in Russia which gave Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications and technology watchdog an express right to ban Telegram, telecom operators appear to have started implementing the order.
The right to ban the messaging app followed Telegram’s failure to give Russian security service the ability to access users’ encrypted messages. Roskomnadzor had prayed the court to block Telegram from operating in Russia, and that the ban should be immediate.
Several news outlets including TechCrunch report that the providers have begun implementation of the court ruling. According to the reports, providers have started blocking the official website of the encrypted messaging app from operating what it knows how to do best.
In his response to the block, founder Pavel Durov in a blog post on Monday wrote per Bloomberg: “We see the decision to block it as anti-constitutional and will continue to defend Russians’ right to private messaging.”
Telegram has 200 million users globally, with Russia accounting for 9.5 million of that figure. The longer it takes Telegram to resolve and get over this issue, the bigger the possibility of losing its user base in that country. Of course, there are alternatives, and it won’t take users a long time to start switching to WhatsApp for instance.
The future may not be as bleak as it looks, but it all depends on whether or not Telegram softens its stand. Allaying the fears of Telegram and its users, the FSB said obtaining the encryption keys does not violate users’ privacy because the keys themselves are not regarded as information of restricted access. The FSB adds that a court order would still be required to collect data on suspects should there be a need for it.
In 2017, Telegram and Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor seemingly found a common ground designed to see the former continue to offer its services unhindered.
Roskomnadzor had threatened to block Telegram if it failed to comply with its data law. The data law in question required the chat app to list its services in Roskomnadzor’s register and provide more information about its services.
While Telegram seems to have agreed to comply with the part of the data law that required it to list its services in the regulator’s register, it insisted that it would not share its confidential user data with local authorities.
The Telegram app is a widely used messaging service because of its encryption feature. So popular is the app in Russia that some highly placed government officials including the press officer to President Vladimir V. Putin is reported to be among its users.
A spokesperson for Kremlin Dmitri S. Peskov who earlier declined to make any comment according to The New York Times, advised Telegram to comply with the law:
“There is a certain legislation that demands certain data to be passed to certain services of the Russian Federation,” he said.