Telegram Still Operating Despite Russian Government Ban
On Monday, April 16, the Russian government banned the use of Telegram after the messaging app company refused to grant the state’s security services access to users’ encrypted messages.
What the Russian Government Did
The ban was put in place by Alexander Zharov, the head of Roskomnadzor, the Russian security organization. This agency blocked 18 sub-networks and numerous IP address belonging to Amazon and Google to stop users from being able to access Telegram. The total number of IP addresses that have been reported to have been blocked is about 20 million.
Zharov stated that this was done as these addresses and networks fell within the purview of the ban as dictated by the Russian courts. Zharov also stated that Telegram was suspected to be used by terrorists to coordinate attacks on Russia and her neighbors.
Telegram’s Response to the Ban
Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov is now fighting against this ban. He sent out all Telegram customers a message that the Russian government had placed a ban on the messaging app because they refused to provide the Roskomnadzor with the encryption keys. Durov said that this was an easy decision to make since he and his company had promised its users 100% privacy and that they would prefer to shut down than break their promise.
After this note to Telegram users, Durov went on Russian social media network, VK, that he would offer Bitcoin grants to those who run proxy servers and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to keep Telegram running. Both systems need third party funding and Durov promised his own money to the cause and has also been inviting others to join the fight against the Russian government’s invasion of privacy.
Russia’s Telegram users are saying that despite the blocks, they are still able to access their accounts and that the app is still working without the need for proxy servers or VPNs. However, dozens of other services not related in any to Telegram, have been badly impacted by this blockage.
Many users of other, unrelated services, have been complaining about their apps and systems crashing due to these blocks. Viber users have experienced connectivity issues. Microsoft and Windows updates have been disabled. Gaming networks such as PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and Battle.net, online gaming platforms such as Wargaming have experienced crashes. Android apps such as APK Mirror and video streaming services such as Netflix and Twitch.tv are not working either.
60 local businesses are reported to be seeking legal assistance regarding this issue. Edward Snowden, an advocate for user anonymity and data security has called this move by the Roskomnadzor morally and technically ignorant in its censorship effort.