Recently, a Moscow court handed a win to Russian security forces. In an effort to combat terrorism, they announced Telegram would be banned immediately. The company refused to hand over user information. A day after the ban going into effect, CEO Pavel Durov announced Telegram would use bitcoin to fund proxies and VPNs as possible workarounds for Russian customers.
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Telegram Remains Defiant
Pavel Durov’s Telegram channel followers were pinged early this morning, explaining “For the last 24 hours Telegram has been under a ban by internet providers in Russia. The reason is our refusal to provide encryption keys to Russian security agencies. For us, this was an easy decision. We promised our users 100% privacy and would rather cease to exist than violate this promise,” the company’s CEO stressed.
Telegram has been in conflict with its native government, Russia, for quite some time. The encrypted messaging service is often used all over the world’s for those seeking relative levels of privacy. In fact, it’s a known source of communication for much of the Middle East and those under rather oppressive political arrangements.
As a result, Russia points to various terrorist acts on its soil, and around the globe, where Telegram has been accused of playing a role. And so its security and communication agencies have demanded Telegram provide a way for government minders to access user information in at least the most criminal of cases.
Bitcoin Used to Digital Resistance
Mr. Durov has outright refused, even holding back participation in this final hearing on the company’s immediate fate in the country. “Despite the ban,” Mr. Pavel continued this morning, “we haven’t seen a significant drop in user engagement so far, since Russians tend to bypass the ban with VPNs and proxies. We also have been relying on third-party cloud services to remain partly available for our users there.”
“Russia accounts for ~7% of the Telegram user base, and even if we lose that entire market, Telegram’s organic growth in other regions will compensate for this loss within a couple of months,” Mr. Durov stressed. “However, it is important for me personally to make sure we do everything we can for our Russian users.”
That necessarily means workarounds. As Mr. Durov urges, “To support internet freedoms in Russia and elsewhere I started giving out bitcoin grants to individuals and companies who run socks5 proxies and VPN. I am happy to donate millions of dollars this year to this cause, and hope that other people will follow. I called this Digital Resistance – a decentralized movement standing for digital freedoms and progress globally.”
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