Last week, a court in Moscow banned the Telegram messaging app after the company refused to give Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) access to user data.
Now, the country’s internet watchdog is said to have blocked an estimated 16 million IP addresses in an attempt to undercut access to the app.
Telegram is used widely by Russia’s upper classes and political elite, and was invented by Russian Pavel Durov, who left the country in 2014, having experienced issues with national security services over a social networking site he created.
The FSB is said to be demanding Telegram’s encryption keys from Durov, which would give them access to the data of its 13 million users. Durov remains steadfast in his refusal to hand over the keys, which resulted in the court’s decision to ban the app last Friday.
Internet censor Roskomnadzor has responded with a show of brute force that may set a new precedent for censorship in Russia.
Durov, however, has pledged to donate millions of dollars to VPN services and other companies he considers part of the “digital resistance”, and reassured users that the IP block failed to significantly affect Telegram’s service:
Despite the ban, we haven’t seen a significant drop in user engagement so far, since Russians tend to bypass the ban with VPNs and proxies.
So far, the battle to keep Telegram available to Russian users has been very public, and it looks like it will continue to be fought out in the open.