A Russian court has ordered an immediate ban on Telegram, the popular app that allows its users to send encrypted messages, after it refused to turn over decryption keys to Russian state security services.
According to a Reuters report, the decision came just a week after Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications and technology watchdog, filed a lawsuit to restrict access to the app. After an 18-minute hearing on Friday, Judge Yulia Smolina ruled that access to the app would be blocked in Russia until Telegram cooperates with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and provides the decryption keys. Russian news service TASS quoted Judge Smolina as saying, "The ban on access to information will be in force until the FSB’s demands are met on providing keys for decrypting user messages."
The New York Times reported that Telegram had instructed its lawyers not to attended the hearing, which was scheduled yesterday, in protest of the rapid pace of the proceedings.
Telegram allegedly did not provide decryption keys
In March of this year, Russia's Supreme Court ruled that Telegram was required to provide the FSB with decryption keys that the security agency had requested in the wake of a 2017 terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. The FSB claimed that the suicide bomber in the attack had used Telegram, and said it needed access to some of Telegram's messages to prevent future attacks. Telegram has repeatedly refused to comply, citing user privacy concerns.
A March blog post on Telegram's website states, "We don’t do deals with marketers, data miners or government agencies. Since the day we launched in August 2013 we haven’t disclosed a single byte of our users' private data to third parties."
In a post on Russian social media website VK this morning, Telegram founder Pavel Durov wrote that Telegram will use internal methods to allow its Russian users to bypass the block, though a VPN may be required to access the service.
Telegram marked 200 million active users in March and is currently engaged in the world's largest ICO. The platform has raised $1.7 billion from investors so far to create a blockchain network that can enable transaction speeds faster than the bitcoin and ethereum blockchains, with a built-in cryptocurrency for Telegram users. (See More: Telegram's Initial Coin Offering Raises $1.7B)