Russia ends ineffective Telegram ban


The Russian government has lifted the ban on the popular Telegram app after a two-year-long saga. A court ruling in 2018 had said that the app shall be banned for failing to share encryption keys with authorities for investigations against terrorism.

The Russian media criticised the government’s move as ‘yielding’ to the company. Roskomnadzor said it withdrew the demand as the company’s founder Pavel Durov was willing to cooperate.  The federal executive body responsible for censorship on media is called “Roskomnadzor” in Russia.

“Roskomnadzor is dropping its demands to restrict access to Telegram messenger in agreement with Russia’s general prosecutor’s office,” it said in a statement.

What led to the Telegram ban?

Two years back, the executive body demanded to block the messaging service in Russia. It said that the app was used by violent terrorist organisations. It needed encryption keys to get access to users’ data in order to investigate the matter. However, the app’s founder Pavel Durov said that privacy of users would not be sold. And that human rights should not be compromised out of fear and greed.

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Thus, the refusal to share encryption keys went against the country’s Anti-terrorism laws. This led to a court’s ruling asking the government to restrict the usage of the app. Following this, ISPs had to block close to 15.8 Million IP addresses on Amazon and Google Cloud platforms.

Efforts in Vain

Despite being banned shortly, people of Russia including companies found ways to crosscut the ban. This made the government’s attempt of blocking several VPN and Proxy tools ineffective.

Add to this, people including the country’s task force and foreign ministry have been using the app. They used it for updating situations of the Coronavirus pandemic in the regions. While the wide-usage of the app was later admitted by a government’s spokesperson, the app was still facing discomforts with the blocked IP addresses.

Telegram’s commitment to combat Extremism

This made Pavel Durov ask the government to lift the ban on the app. This would obviously allow people to use the service with more comfort. He also iterated that the company has developed various tools over the years to spot and remove the extremist content on the app.

Nevertheless, the Kremlin government has taken note of the Roskmnadzor’s withdrawal of demand. It has appreciated the founder’s willingness to combat terrorism and extremism. 

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