The Russian Federal Service For Supervision Of Communications, Information Technology, And Mass Media, or Roskomnadzor, has managed to get the Telegram messaging service blocked in the country, as per a court order today.
The agency initially filed the lawsuit last week, requiring Telegram to hand over the encryption keys to the Federal Security Service (FSB) in order to facilitate the fight against terrorism and other criminal activities believed to be coordinated using the messaging service.
However, according to Telegram, not only is this requirement unconstitutional, it is also technically impossible as the encryption keys keep changing.
Telegram founder, Pavel Durov has been advocating freedom and privacy, and the company’s official position is:
“...the requirements of the FSB to provide access to private correspondence of users are unconstitutional, not based on law, technically and legally unworkable, therefore, the requirement of blocking is also unreasonable.”
Given how widely Telegram is used, a suspension of service is bound to affect users in the country. However, the press secretary of the Russian president, Dimitry Sands believes that the messenger needs to follow the law, and if it doesn’t, alternatives will need to be considered:
“Telegram is very convenient, we really use it, including for communication with journalists, it will be very unfortunate if there is no consensus, as far as we understand, it has not yet been found. The law is a law, and if it is not respected and appropriate measures are taken, we will look for an alternative that best meets our needs.”
While the court order is effective immediately, the head of Roskomnadzor, Alexander Zharov clarified that the messenger will be blocked after the necessary technical preparation is completed.
As of now, no specific dates have been provided, but several solutions to bypass the ban are emerging. Desktop users of Telegram can use the SOCKS5 protocol while mobile users can use proxy servers or virtual private networks.
Commenting on this development, Pavel Durov, posted this on Vkontakte (translated from Russian):
“Telegram will use built-in methods to bypass the block, which do not require additional steps from users, but the company cannot give 100% guarantee of service availability without VPN.
Third-party VPN/Proxy-might be overloaded, which is likely to result in slow operation during the first hours after the block. Regardless of the block, Telegram will be able to communicate notices to all Russian users to keep them informed of the developments.”
He also urged Telegram users not to uninstall the app due to connection issues and recommended that those who don’t have the app, download it from the App Store or Google Play Store before the ban.
It remains to be seen how this development affects the upcoming Telegram Open Network and the GRAM cryptocurrency.