Russian telecom watchdog threatens to block Telegram

Russian telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor announced on Friday that Telegram will be blocked if the service does not meet its registration obligation. The watchdog wants information about the company that runs Telegram.

The official statement from Roskomnadzor cannot be consulted due to problems with the site, but a cached version can still be found. In it, the head of the telecom authority writes that “all means to communicate with Telegram have been exhausted” after the organization sent daily letters to the company. Telegram would be a so-called organizer of dissemination of information, which means that there is a registration obligation.

According to the watchdog, the legal position of Telegram will not change due to the registration. The Russian news agency Tass writes that after registration, Telegram will be obliged to save messages from users and if necessary share them with investigative services. The same would apply to keys, although it is unclear whether this refers to encryption keys. This seems to be a similar arrangement to the retention obligation for telecom data.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov has responded to the request through his social network VKontakte, calling it “sabotage.” In addition, a blockade seems to him to be the wrong decision, because it also shuts down the communication of Russian officials.

The encrypted chat app Signal introduced a method to bypass blocks in December. According to the Russian site Vedomosti, Telegram is also working on a method to counteract blockades. Last year, Russia introduced a bill to oblige chat apps like Telegram to build in a backdoor.