The Telegram-Powered News Outlet That's Waging Guerrilla War on Russia

The Telegram-Powered News Outlet That’s Waging Guerrilla War on Russia

Telegram, the encrypted messaging service, has become increasingly popular with media organizations looking to reach audiences in authoritarian countries that aggressively censor traditional social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Now, this reliance on Telegram could land some of these organizations in trouble with the Russian government, which recently announced it was banning the service due to its use by terrorists. Regulators have ordered Internet providers to block traffic to the app within Russia starting Monday, April 16.

Censorship in Putin’s Russia

Telegram is one of the only mobile apps that still work in Russia, and Russian authorities are doing their best to limit its reach. Recently, Russian law enforcement raided a messaging app distributor in Moscow for violating legislation that prohibits software from carrying out certain functions like anonymizing data. If a messaging app developer doesn’t adhere to Russia’s rules, it could get blocked in the country or fined up to $15,000.

Why the Kremlin fears Telegram

Because Telegram offers Russians a way to get around Kremlin restrictions, the app has become wildly popular in the country. The newest issue of National Geographic reports that there are 100 million monthly active users. Meanwhile, the Kremlin is moving to block Russian users from accessing Telegram by enlisting the help of Internet service providers in its nationwide internet shutdown campaign. The website FSB 1337 notes that Russian ISPs will be banned from providing access to Telegram for about three days – a tactic that would seem to be an attempt at scaring average Russian internet users away from using the messenger service as it becomes more widely known that they’ll lose out on messages if they try it out.

Threatened with an 18+ rating, messaging app fights back

Russia threatened with a blacklisting from the Kremlin. The messenger, originally created by Durov and his brother, is currently being dragged into an ongoing power struggle for control of Russia. As far as messaging apps go, Telegram is one of the most secure with military-grade encryption between users and asynchronous time synchronization, meaning that messages are not logged into a central server when they are sent (and delivered). One person receiving a message does not mean the person who sent it can’t read it because if the content is encrypted, it doesn’t show up to anyone in that conversation except the recipient. There has been an increase in speculation that this could be a ploy by authorities to pressure VKontakte shareholders to sell, as Techcrunch reported today.

Russian government blocks more than 16 million IP addresses from websites it says are linked to Telegram

Since Pavel Durov and his brother Nicolai created Telegram, the messaging app has been a privacy defender par excellence. The software’s inherent end-to-end encryption ensures that all data is secure, with messages transmitted between two people at maximum speed even if they are blocked by firewalls. But, it turns out, this isn’t good enough for the Russian government, which blocks more than 16 million IP addresses from websites it says are linked to Telegram. To circumvent the ban, members of the media group Roskomnadzor launched their own Telegram channel called Para Bellum (Latin for prepare for war) that provides access to blocked information about Russia in English and Russian.

RKN blocks Viber, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger in the latest censorship move

Roskomnadzor, the Russian government censorship agency, has gone into overdrive blocking IP addresses in order to ban platforms that don’t follow its demands to hand over encryption keys. The latest list includes Viber, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger.

Roskomnadzor said it had blocked more than 18 million pieces of illegal content since January 2018 but is increasingly under pressure from activists and internet experts who say the agency violates internet freedom by blocking entire platforms or apps rather than specific content that could then be filtered by the platform operator.

How Zello came to be used by protesters in Ukraine

Zello is an app that was originally developed for military use by Ukrainian soldier Ihor Pavlovich. In 2014, Pavlovich was leading a team of 200 soldiers in Ukraine when protests broke out in the eastern city of Donetsk. He used Zello to lead his squad as he responded to requests for help from protesters and government forces. Demonstrations that originally erupted peacefully soon turned violent after it became apparent protesters weren’t backing down; so, President Viktor Yanukovych fired their police force and sent the army to control protesters. Zello’s ability to coordinate communication had never been tested at such a high intensity before, but it proved its effectiveness time and time again.

Pavel Durov becomes the enemy of the state—again

Pavel Durov became an enemy of the state for a second time when, following news that Moscow threatened to block the app due to a refusal to share information about its users, he told reporters at a press conference: So be it.

My position is that at this point, communications can’t be free if somebody knows the user’s identity, Durov said. Communication can’t be free if somebody might come and arrest you because of your conversation. If you’re worried about terrorism or espionage—that any terrorist should know who was talking to someone—then no.

Also Read: AllSMO: Get Real Instagram Followers in 2022

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