The Russian state telecommunication regulator has started to block Telegram, as expected. This comes after the messaging company refused to give Russian security services encryption keys. The service is expected to be blocked in the coming hours.
According to several reports, Telegram is still operational in the country, though several service providers have started blocking the company’s website.
Run by its Russian founder Pavel Durov, Telegram has more than 200 million users and is a top-10 messaging service made popular by its strong stance on privacy.
Russian regulators classify Telegram as an operator of information dissemination in Russia, therefore the company is required to provide keys to its encryption service to Russia’s Federal Security Service. This is so the FSS can reportedly read the messages of suspected terrorists. On March 20, the Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor gave Telegram 15 days to comply. This was followed by Durov publicly decrying the order, saying Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy.
“The terrorist threat in Russia will stay at the same level, because extremists will continue to use encrypted communication channels – in other messengers, or through a VPN,” he said according to a report by Reuters.
Durov has long stood by this stance. Back in 2015 at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, Durov revealed that ISIS was using Telegram.
“I think that privacy, ultimately, and the right for privacy is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism,” he said at the time. “Yes, there’s a war going on in the Middle East. It’s a series of tragic events. But ultimately, the ISIS will always find a way to communicate within themselves. And if any means of communication turns out to be not secure for them, they’ll just switch to another one. So I don’t think we are actually taking part in these activities. I don’t think we should be guilty or feel guilty about it. I still think we’re doing the right thing, protecting our users’ privacy.”
It’s unclear how this block will change Telegram’s plan for a billion-dollar ICO. We’ve reached out to Telegram for comment.