Roskomnadzor files lawsuit to block Telegram

Hugh Fox
April 7, 2018

Russia's state communications watchdog said on Friday it had filed a lawsuit to limit access to the Telegram messaging app after the company refused to give Russian state security services access to its users' secret messages.

Roskomnadzor has filed a lawsuit at Moscow court today "with a request to restrict access on the territory of Russian Federation to the information resources of".

Telegram first attracted the attention of the watchdog in 2016 when it failed to comply with new legislation related to terrorism.

Telegram, which lets people exchange messages, photos, and videos in groups of up to 5,000 people, has attracted more than 100 million users since it was launched by a Russian Internet entrepreneur and his brother in 2013.

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Ranked as the world's ninth most popular mobile messaging app, Telegram is widely used in countries across the former Soviet Union and Middle East.

Earlier this week, another Telegram lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, told reporters that the company had notified Roskomnadzor that the FSB's requirement was not feasible for technical reasons, however, Roskomnadzor said in a press release that they had not received any official response from Telegram.

But Russia's FSB Federal Security service has said it needs access to some messages for its work, including guarding against terrorist attacks.

Russian Federation has been trying to exert more control over social media and online communications over the years, and legislation passed in 2016 gave them the means to do it.

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Roskomnadzor said Telegram had 15 days to comply with its demands. Durov has steadfastly refused, even as the Russian government has been threatening to ban Telegram if he didn't cooperate.

Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov, usually very outspoken on social media, has not commented on today's lawsuit. The service now has over 200 million active monthly users.

Telegram is also now trying to raise funds for expansion via an Initial Coin Offering. So far, it is believed to have raised about $1.7bn (£1.2bn) via this funding scheme.

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