Telegram has had a difficult stand in Russia over the last years. Ever since the messenger was unwilling to hand over its encryption keys that would enable unrestricted surveillance of the chat app’s users, the country has been attempting to block its citizens from accessing the service — albeit widely unsuccessful. After this two-year-long cat-and-mouse game that even involved our own sister site APK Mirror, Telegram is now officially available in Russia again. The platform and Roscomnadzor, essentially the Russian FCC, have reached an agreement on how to counter extremism and terrorism on the platform.
At first glance, the agency’s statement might make Russian Telegram users fear for their privacy: “We positively assess the readiness expressed by the founder of Telegram to counter terrorism and extremism.” However, the measures mentioned are part of a framework all social networks officially available in the country have to implement. They’re additionally meant to prevent the propagation of paedophilic content, the promotion of suicidal behavior, and selling or pointing to drug and drug use.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov was also quick to assure that there would be no changes regarding safety and privacy due to the collaboration, so the Russian government hopefully hasn’t gained access to any critical encryption infrastructure in the process. Durov writes in his public Russian Telegram channel:
Great news – Roscomnadzor has officially unlocked Telegram in Russia. I congratulate all Russian Telegram users on this positive change – and I hope that it will be long-term.
What will change in practice as a result of the unlock? The stability and speed of Telegram mobile applications in Russia should increase. Direct web links to Telegram channels and services will also become available without VPN, which will lead to an increase in the number of channel and chat participants. At the same time, there are no changes in the safety of personal data – the right to confidentiality and confidentiality of personal correspondence remains a fundamental principle of Telegram in all countries.
I think that unlocking will be a good signal for IT entrepreneurs and investors. Similar actions of the Russian authorities in this and other directions inspire optimism. I hope that the positive trend will be maintained, and Russia will be able to realize its potential in the digital sphere.
Thank you to all Russians who continued to use Telegram over the past two years. Your trust and support have inspired our team all this time. I am sure that this support was one of the reasons for today’s event.
The move has been anticipated following the introduction of a bill on unblocking Telegram earlier this month, but it still comes as a surprise after years of Russian hostility towards the messenger. With the platform’s soaring popularity among the population, a somewhat regulated existence might be the preferred path forward for the government. You could also think that the Russian authority’s gesture of goodwill might be meant to appease citizens ahead of the upcoming vote on the country’s controversial new constitution.