Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe — Bloomberg via Getty Images
By David Meyer
April 13, 2018

The encrypted messaging app Telegram must immediately be blocked in Russia, a Moscow court ruled Friday due to Telegram’s refusal to hand over the keys to its users’ conversations.

The Russian communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, told Telegram in mid-2017 that it had to hand over the keys to users’ encrypted conversations. Telegram, which was founded by Russian tech luminary Pavel Durov but operates from outside the country, refused to do so.

As with other modern encryption apps such as WhatsApp, the keys to Telegram users’ private conversations are held on their own devices, so the company running the service does not hold anything it can turn over.

The matter came to a head on Friday morning when, according to Russian news agency TASS, Telegram asked Moscow’s Tagansky court to delay hearings. Durov reportedly told his lawyers not to show up, so as “not to legitimize an outspoken farce by their presence.”

The court turned down the request, and swiftly ordered Telegram’s blocking. “The court ruled to satisfy the demand of Rosomnadzor,” judge Yulia Smolina said.

According to Vedomosti, Telegram now has a month to appeal the block. Telegram’s lawyer told the newspaper that the messaging service plans to do so.

Fortune has asked Telegram for comment, but had received none at the time of writing.

The case has echoes of WhatsApp’s repeated blockage in Brazil, where prosecutors were frustrated by their inability to access the private messages of a suspect in a major drug case.

Telegram has also frequently hit the headlines over its use by terrorists, although that is more to do with its unencrypted “channels” feature, through which people can broadcast their opinions to followers.

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