Russian ISPs finally start blocking Telegram

Meduza
14:47, 16 april 2018

On Monday, April 16, Russia’s federal censor followed through on months of threats and finally ordered Internet service providers to start blocking Telegram. Last Friday, a Moscow district court granted Roskomnadzor the authority to block the popular instant messenger without allowing the company to stall the process in appellate court. Clients of all major telecoms in Russia have been reporting that Telegram has stalled on their phones. Roskomnadzor says it has also ordered Google and Apple to remove the app from their stores in Russia. (It's unclear if they'll comply.)

The Kremlin has already stopped using Telegram to arrange conference calls with journalists and switched to ICQ, which Mail.ru Group acquired in 2010.

Are people getting around this?

To circumvent the government’s ban, many users have turned to VPN and proxies that connect them to Telegram through servers located outside Russia. These services — especially the free networks — can dramatically slow down a person’s Internet connection. They are also costly to run all the time, both in terms of money and battery power. Roskomnadzor has promised to start blocking the circumvention tools that allow Russians to connect to Telegram. “Opera VPN,” the most popular free VPN service in Russia, announced over the weekend that it will close down all operations by the end of the month.

In the afternoon on Monday, Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov wrote on Vkontakte that the blocking of Telegram:

  • Makes life difficult for the app’s 15 million users in Russia.
  • Does nothing to reduce the risk from terrorists, who he says will use other messenger apps or access Telegram through VPN.
  • Reduces Russia’s national security by sending citizens’ private data from a “neutral platform” (Telegram) to the “U.S.-controlled” apps Facebook and WhatsApp, as Russians migrate to those services.