Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov has publicly sided with the messaging app Telegram against a lawmaker's concerns that the program helps facilitate correspondence between terrorists.
According to Nikiforov, terrorists would simply use a different messenger, if the Russian authorities tried to block Telegram. Blocking all messengers, meanwhile, would be tantamount to blocking the entire Internet in Russia, which runs against Russia's development strategy, the Communications Minister argues.
"We shouldn't block, but identify and prosecute those who engage in illegal activities. The Ministry of Communications, together with Russia's security agencies, is constantly working in this framework as is our duty," Nikiforov said.
Also criticizing Duma deputy Alexander Ageyev's proposal to limit Russians' access to Telegram is Dmitry Marinichev, the Kremlin's Internet Commissioner. In a radio interview earlier today, Marinichev mocked Ageyev's idea, saying, "It would be just as effective as determining what phones terrorists are using and then banning that specific model telephone within a certain region."
“Blocking Telegram or some other messenger in Russia because ISIL terrorists use them is as reasonable as, for example, banning the use of Toyotas in Russia because they're also popular among ISIL terrorists,” Nikiforov said.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Paris last weekend, Russian lawmaker Alexander Ageyev formally appealed to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) to investigate the possibility of limiting Russians' access to the messaging app Telegram. "According to multiple reports in the Russian media, terrorists from the Islamic State actively use the messenger Telegram for propaganda purposes," Ageyev said in his appeal to the FSB.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov responded sarcastically on social media, writing, "Why don't we just ban the written word? After all, words contain information that helps terrorists communicate with each other."