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Telegram's lawyer slams blocking in Russian Federation as violation of rights and freedoms

15 April 2018

According to the court's decision, access to Telegram will be blocked until the fulfillment of obligations on the transfer of encryption keys to the FSB.

The media regulator requested Telegram to provide it with encryption keys that are used to scramble messages.

The encrypted messaging app Telegram must immediately be blocked in Russian Federation, a Moscow court ruled Friday due to Telegram's refusal to hand over the keys to its users' conversations. At this point, it's not really clear when the ban will actually take place.

Russia's FSB Federal Security service argued that it needs to be able to access the messages to safeguard against terrorist attacks.

On Friday morning, the Tagansky District Court described the request of Telegram's lawyers to adjourn the hearings as "abuse of law" and ordered the trial to go ahead. Roskomnadzor said on its website it will start the procedure to block Telegram once it receives a written ruling from the court.

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.

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There is not any immediate comment from Pavel Durov, the Telegram founder, that a Russian who fled the country at 2014 immediately after losing control of this Russian social network Vkontakte, which he'd also established.

Agora, an worldwide civil-rights group that defends Telegram in Russian courts, said in a statement its lawyers skipped today's "farce hearing" and plan to appeal the ruling.

Telegram is based in Berlin, and has around 200m monthly active users. FSB demanded those keys because it wanted to read user messages as part of its anti-terror measures. While it might be possible for individuals to use virtual private networks for the Tor anonymity service to bypass such a move, the blocks would likely cause a major disruption for most Telegram users in that country. "There is a certain legislation that demands certain data to be passed to certain services of the Russian Federation", Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitri S. Peskov, said, adding that his office would resort to an alternative app the moment Telegram ceased working.

An amusing wrinkle: The Kremlin itself reportedly uses Telegram to communicate with journalists.

Telegram's service has faced temporary blocks in Iran - over content being spread on the platform that the regime dislikes.

Telegram's lawyer slams blocking in Russian Federation as violation of rights and freedoms