Russian users of Telegram are about to find the popular messaging app has been blocked. A Moscow court today granted the block—which will go into effect immediately—due to the company’s unwillingness to hand over encryption keys.
These encryption keys were requested by Russian authorities so they can access user data for counterterrorism purposes. Telegram allows its more than 200 million users around the world, including many senior government officials, to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties.
Telegram has long been under pressure to provide the keys, and had been given a final 15-day window to hand them over. With Telegram refusing, Russia’s state communication watchdog filed a lawsuit to block the app, which has now been granted in court.
Here’s what Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, wrote in a tweet following the news.
Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed. https://t.co/ACsCvk6WFx
— Pavel Durov (@durov) April 13, 2018
Durov linked to a more in-depth comment on Telegram, hitting out against the rise in global censorship.
“The power that local governments have over IT corporations is based on money. At any given moment, a government can crash their stocks by threatening to block revenue streams from its markets and thus force these companies to do strange things (remember how last year Apple moved iCloud servers to China).”
This isn’t the first time Telegram has been blocked; earlier this year, the Iranian government blocked the app to help quell the civil unrest that was occurring within its country. And the Indonesian government made similar moves last summer.
Whether Telegram eventually caves to Russia’s demands remains to be seen, but Durov’s words suggest that, right now at least, that seems unlikely. His lawyer, too, described the block as “unconstitutional” and claimed it “cannot be fulfilled technically and legally.”
As for what this means for users, Reuters suggests many will turn to VPNs (a Virtual Private Network routes a user’s web traffic through its secure servers, encrypting their data and providing them with a new IP address—one that can appear as it’s from a different country. VPNs are often used to circumnavigate geo-located restrictions).
According to Reuters: “Telegram founder and CEO, Pavel Durov, said the app will use built-in systems to circumnavigate the ban but could not guarantee 100 percent access without the use of a virtual private network, or VPN.”
We’ll follow this story as it continues to unfold. Check the Hotspot Shield blog for more info, and remember you can download our free VPN here.