Blocking Telegram in Russia

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A map of countries in which Telegram is completely or partially blocked
  Completely blocked
  Partially blocked (some ISPs or audio traffic)

Blocking Telegram in Russia is the process of restricting access to Telegram messenger on the territory of the Russian Federation. The technical process of this restriction began on April 16, 2018.[1] The blocking led to interruptions in the operation of many third-party services, but practically did not affect the availability of Telegram in Russia. It was officially unblocked on 19 June, 2020.

Background[edit]

The Yarovaya law, which requires telecom operators to keep all voice and messaging traffic of their customers for half a year, and their internet traffic for 30 days, went into effect in the Russian Federation on July 1, 2018.[2][3]

The position of Moscow's Meschansky district court is that, in accordance with the Yarovaya law, Telegram is required to store encryption keys from all user correspondence and provide them to Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB, upon request.[4][5] Telegram management insists that this requirement is technically impracticable, since keys of opt-in secret chats are stored on users' devices and are not in Telegram's possession.[6] Pavel Durov, Telegram's co-founder, said that the FSB's demands violated the constitutional rights of Russian citizens to the privacy of correspondence.[7]

On 13 April 2018 Moscow's Tagansky District Court has ruled, with immediate effect, on restricting access to Telegram in Russia .[8][9] Telegram's appeal to the Russian Supreme Court has been rejected.[10]

In April 2020, the Government of Russia started using the blocked Telegram platform to spread information related to COVID-19 outbreak.

On 18 June 2020 Roskomnadzor lifted its ban on Telegram after it 'agrees to help with extremism investigations'.[11] The court ruling which was the basis of original ban is still in force, and hence the lifting is illegal.

Courts and legal position of the parties[edit]

Conflict between the FSB and Telegram began earlier than the Yarovaya law came into effect. In September 2017, the FSB filed a lawsuit on the non-fulfillment of the Yarovaya law by Telegram. In October 2017, a judgment was delivered in favor of the FSB, imposing a fine on Telegram of 800 thousand rubles.[12][13] The reason cited was the lack of encryption keys for 6 persons accused of terrorism. According to a statement issued by one of the founders of Telegram, Pavel Durov, even if the request of the FSB was solely intended to help in capturing six terrorists, Telegram could not comply, as the mobile numbers that the FSB was concerned with either never had accounts in Telegram, or their accounts were deleted due to inactivity. At the same time, the FSB had demanded the creation of a technology that would enable them to access the correspondence of any users.[14][15]

According to Pavel Durov, the FSB's requirements were not feasible:

In addition to the fact that the requirements of the FSB are not technically feasible, they contradict Article 23 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation : "Everyone has the right to privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal, telegraphic and other communications".[16]

If the FSB had confined itself to requesting information about several terrorists, its demand would fit in with the Constitution. However, we are talking about the transfer of universal encryption keys for the purpose of subsequent uncontrolled access to the correspondence of an unlimited circle of persons.[17][18]

Pavel Durov put out a call on October 16, 2017, for lawyers who are willing to represent Telegram in a court to appeal the decision.[19] Two days later Durov said that he received 200 proposals from lawyers, and chosen Inter-regional Association of Human Rights Organizations "Agora" to represent Telegram in the court battles.[20]

Russia's Supreme Court rejected Telegram's lawsuit to FSB on March 20, 2018. After the court ruling, the Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor said the messaging service had 15 days to provide the required information to the country's security agencies.[21] The FSB defended its position, saying that providing the FSB with the technical ability to decode messages does not annul legal procedures such as obtaining court rules in order to perlustrate specific messages.[22]

On April 13, Moscow's Tagansky district court ruled to block access to Telegram in Russia over its failure to provide encryption keys to the FSB.[21]

Protest actions[edit]

On April 22, 2018, "an action in support of free Internet" was held in multiple cities around Russia, timed to the seventh day of Telegram's being blocked. Residents of Russia launched paper airplanes (the symbol of Telegram) from the roofs of various buildings. The protest was planned on Telegram on the morning of April 22. Pavel Durov, one of the founders of Telegram, supported the action, but asked that the participants gather up the paper airplanes within an hour after the launch. [23]

On April 30, 2018, in the center of Moscow, an action was held in support of Telegram in Russia as a result of its blocking. More than 12,000 people participated.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Роскомнадзор начал процедуру блокировки Telegram - Экономика и бизнес". ТАСС (in Russian). Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  2. ^ https://www.rt.com/russia/424664-russian-term-data-storage/ The Russian government later shortened the length of required data storage for telecom providers from six months to one month.
  3. ^ Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation from 12.04.2018 #445 "On approval of regulations of storing by the telecommunications operators of their users' voice information, images, sounds, video- and other messages" (in Russian)
  4. ^ Decree of the Meshchansky court on administrative violation (in Russian)
  5. ^ A letter from the FSB about an administrative offense (in Russian)
  6. ^ Durov explained where are the keys for deciphering of Telegram
  7. ^ Online Messages Are Not Protected Under Secrecy of Correspondence
  8. ^ "A Moscow court sanctions the Russian government's request to block Telegram". Meduza. 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  9. ^ "Russia's telecom watchdog starts blocking Telegram messenger". TASS. 2018-04-16. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  10. ^ "Telegram Loses Bid to Block Russia From Encryption Keys". Bloomberg_News. 2018-04-20. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  11. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/telegram-russia-ban-lift-messaging-app-encryption-download-a9573181.html
  12. ^ Messaging app Telegram will not hand over data despite fine
  13. ^ Russia fines Telegram for not giving backdoor access
  14. ^ "Дуров заявил, что компромисс между Telegram и ФСБ был изначально невозможен". NEWSru.com (in Russian). May 19, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  15. ^ "Пользователи Telegram подали в суд коллективный иск к ФСБ - Общество". ТАСС (in Russian). Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  16. ^ ntv.ru (October 16, 2017). "Дуров назвал штраф для Telegram нарушением Конституции РФ". НТВ (in Russian). Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  17. ^ "Durov's Channel". Telegram. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  18. ^ tass.ru (May 8, 2018). "Дуров заявил о планах бороться за Telegram в России "до победного конца"". TASS (in Russian). Retrieved Dec 3, 2018.
  19. ^ Telegram Founder Durov Puts Out Call for Lawyers to Fight Encryption Fine
  20. ^ Human Rights Law Firm to Defend Telegram in Government Encryption Row
  21. ^ a b Telegram files appeal to fight Russian Supreme Court’s decision
  22. ^ "Письменные возражения ФСБ, представленные в Верховный суд" (PDF). Agora (in Russian). October 16, 2017. Retrieved Dec 3, 2018.
  23. ^ "Россияне запустили бумажные самолетики в поддержку свободного интернета. И пообещали убрать за собой". Meduza (in Kyrgyz). April 22, 2018. Archived from the original on May 1, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  24. ^ "Число участников митинга в защиту Telegram достигло 12 тысяч человек. Дуров назвал акцию беспрецедентной". republic.ru (in Russian). Archived from the original on May 1, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.