Russia’s state communications watchdog has filed a lawsuit against Telegram messaging app for refusing to collaborate with the country’s state security services.
Telegram, like WhatsApp, is famous for its encryption. The service allows users to communicate via encrypted messages such that third-parties, government authorities inclusive cannot read them.
The mobile app is currently ranked the world’s ninth most popular messaging app, and its users increased to 200 million in March.
This is not the first time that Telegram would have a case with authority. The issue with encrypted messages bothers on security over privacy. Russia’s Federal Security Service said it needs to access some private messages to guard citizens against terrorist attacks, but Pavel Durov, Telegram’s owner, has repeatedly refused, citing a breach of user privacy.
In 2017, Russia threatened to ban the app for security purposes after it was linked to the St. Petersburg attack perpetrated by Russian terrorist, Akbarzhon Jalilov, which left 14 people dead and 64 others injured. On the whole, it appears that the app favours the Islamic State. Reports show that it is widely used in the Middle East and countries across the former Soviet Union.
Pavel Durov had tweeted in March that plans to block telegram will be futile. “Threats to block Telegram unless it gives up private data of its users will not bear fruit. Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy.”
The country’s communications watchdog said it had filed a lawsuit “with a request to restrict access to the territory of Russia to the information resources of Telegram Messenger Limited Liability Partnership.” The trial is connected to Durov’s reluctance to comply with the country’s security measures
Telegram’s lawyer Pavel Chikov responded that the government’s plan to block the app is baseless. “The FSB’s requirements to provide access to private conversations of users are unconstitutional, baseless, which cannot be fulfilled technically and legally.”
If Russia succeeds in the ban, it would need to collaborate with Internet Service Providers to restrict domains and IP addresses used by the app. Then again, the use of VPNs can help users bypass this stringent rule by funnelling a user’s data through a country where the service is permitted.
Moreover, Telegram currently undertook an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to raise funds for a cryptocurrency which will trade like bitcoin and so far, it is believed to have raised about $1.7bn. Investors of this ICO will closely monitor the court’s rulings to see that they don’t run at a loss.