Telegram banned in Russia over encryption dispute

A Russian court approved the state’s communication watchdog, Roskomnadzor, request to limit access to Telegram, due to the company’s repeated refusal to hand over encryption keys, this way undermining privacy of its users. Raskomnadzor asked the court to block the app, and for the ban to take an immediate effect. The media reports that the court scheduled the hearing one day prior, during which it took 18 minutes to approve the watchdog’s request. Raskomnadzor’s head, Alexander Zharov, stated that the ban would be soon in effect, and soon after also blocked. The judge, Yulia Smolina, said: ‘The court decided to meet the requirements of Roskomnadzor, impose restrictions on access to Telegram messenger and stop providing technical conditions for the exchange of messages.’ Russia’s Federal Security service claimed the need to access to some of the messages as part of the guarding against terrorist attacks. Telegram Funder and CEO, Pavel Durov, reacted to the decision by saying that the app will use built-in systems to circumnavigate the ban, underlying that the access will be difficult without the use of a virtual private network. Telegram’s lawyer, Pavel Chikov, wrote on a Telegram channel: ‘They have demonstrated again and again that the court system is devoted to serving the interests of the authorities. They no longer even care about basic external appearances.’ Among app’s 9.5 million active users within the country are also journalists and members of Russia’s political opposition. Telegram is also used by the Kremlin for communicating with reporters, as well as to arrange conference calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.