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Russian Federation moves to block Telegram app amid TON ICO speculation

15 April 2018

A court in Russian Federation ruled yesterday to block the popular messaging app Telegram in the country, after it refused to give state security services access to private conversations.

Durov is himself Russian but has lived in exile since 2014 after claiming he'd been forced to hand control of his former social networking company, vk, to allies of Russian president Vladimir Putin - also as a result of refusing to hand user data to authorities.

As part of its services, Telegram allows its more than 200 million global users, including senior Russian government officials, to communicate via encrypted messages which can not be read by third parties. In July of previous year, the FSB requested that Telegram grant the agency access to a decryption process to view messages.

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Russia's main security agency, the FSB, had said it wants access to the keys so it can read messages and prevent future terror attacks in the country. It recently celebrated 200 million users, and is presently raising billions in what is being called the biggest initial coin offering so far.

Well known for its secret chat functionality, Telegram couldn't have complied with the FSB's repeated requests without compromising its business model and entire approach to protecting privacy. Security services made the demand under a series of laws passed in 2016 with the stated intention of fighting terrorism. Telegram lawyers skipped the hearing in protest.

"The power that local governments have over IT corporations is based on money", said Durov.

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The fate of the ongoing conflict between Russia's telecommunications supervisory body, Roskomnadzor, and the messaging app, Telegram, has been decided by the courts. So popular is the app in Russian Federation that some highly placed government officials including the press officer to President Vladimir V. Putin is reported to be among its users. Telegram, which was founded by Russian tech luminary Pavel Durov but operates from outside the country, refused to do so.

Incidentally, Telegram has been one of the favourite methods of communication for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, which uses the app's open channels feature - which can be followed by anyone using the app - to spread ISIL propaganda. The company filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the fine, lawyer Damir Gainutdinov told RAPSI on March 22.

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Russian Federation moves to block Telegram app amid TON ICO speculation