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Telegram messenger to be blocked in Russia following court ruling


(Reuters) – A Russian court on Friday ordered that access to the Telegram messenger service should be blocked in Russia, Russian news agencies reported, heralding communication disruption for scores of users – including government officials. The decision came a week after Russias state communication watchdog filed a lawsuit to limit access to Telegram messaging app following the companys refusal to give Russian state security services access to its users messages. With more than 200 million users worldwide, the mobile messaging app allows users to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties, including government authorities. Pavel Durov, founder of the Telegram, had repeatedly said his company would not hand over encryption keys to Russian authorities as it does not share confidential user data with anyone. In Russia, Telegram is increasingly popular as an app for mobile devices and desktops – not only among ordinary people but is widely used by authorities. The Kremlin uses Telegram to coordinate timings of regular conference calls with Vladimir Putins spokesman, while many government officials use the messenger to communicate with media. When Reuters asked a person in the Russian government on how they would operate without access to Telegram, the person, who asked not be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, replied by sending a screenshot of his mobile phone with an open VPN app. Users in Russia actively use virtual private networks, or VPNs, and other technologies, known as anonymisers, that allow people to get around restrictions that Russian authorities periodically impose on internet resources. Telegram became the second global network after LinkedIn to be blocked in Russia. LinkedIn was blocked in 2016 when a court found the firm guilty of violating a law that requires companies holding Russian citizens data to store it on servers on Russian soil. The ban on using Telegram in Russia comes at a time when the company is undertaking the worlds biggest initial coin offering – a private sale of tokens which could be traded as an alternative currency, similar to bitcoin or Ethereum. The company has so far raised $1.7 billion in pre-sales via the offering, according to media reports.

Telegram banned in Russia following court ruling


However, it's unclear when the ban will take effect. Russian authorities have been threatening to ban Telegram since 2017 due to its developers' repeated refusal to give them access to users' data. Well, they can soon make good on that threat now that a Moscow court has officially issued a ban on the secure messaging application. It all started when KGB successor Federal Security Service (FSB) demanded access to Telegram's decryption keys last year. FSB wants those keys so it can read user messages, apparently as part of its anti-terror measures. It's no secret that Telegram has a terrorist problem due to the emphasis it places on user privacy -- in fact, the company has been blocking ISIS channels for years, though new ones continue to pop up. But it's also because of how much Telegram values security and privacy that its founder, Pavel Durov, wouldn't budge no matter hard the agency pushed. While his company eventually agreed to register with the Russian government as an information distributor that officially operates within the country, Durov refuses to comply with any request that can compromise user data. As a result, Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor asked the court to ban the app. According to Russian news agency Tass, the ban will take effect immediately. However, Financial Times says the ban will likely come into effect after Telegram has exhausted all its appeals next month, and Roskomnadzor can only order internet providers to block Russian users' access to the application if the company continues to lose in court.