Russian Federation bans Telegram encrypted messaging app

Telegram messenger logo on a tablet screen

The order arrives just a week after Russia's state communication watchdog filed a lawsuit to limit access to the messaging app due to its owners refusing to hand over message transcripts to Russian state security.

According to Russian legislation, organisers of information channels on the Internet, which include messengers, e-mail services, etc., are supposed to provide keys to decrypt user correspondence at the request from the Federal Security Bureau (FSB).

In March, Roskomnadzor notified Telegram that it must comply with the FSB request to provide the FSB "with the information necessary to decode received, transmitted, delivered and (or) processed electronic messages".

Telegram was still available late Friday afternoon in Russian Federation, several hours after the court ruling.

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.

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Telegram is widely used across Russian Federation and other former Soviet states, and in the Middle East.

The free application, which lets people exchange messages, photos and videos in groups of up to 5,000 people, has attracted more than 200 million users since its launch in 2013.

Unfortunately, access to VPN's is a bit trickier in Russian Federation than it is in other parts of the world, so some of those services may not be available. Telegram's lawyer told the newspaper that the messaging service plans to do so. In an online statement Friday, Telegram founder Pavel Durov continued to resist Russia's demands, saying the government lacked the means to punish his company for its noncompliance. "No documents have been provided to us, the positions of the FSB [Russia's Federal Security Service] and Roskomnadzor [Russia's media watchdog] haven't been clarified", the lawyer said, adding that "Telegram has not received anything". Providers will block the app starting from April 16.

Durov, the Telegram founder, posted about the ruling on his VKontakte page, Russia's largest social network. An irony not lost on officials is that they too use Telegram for communication purposes, and that includes President Putin's own press office.

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