After 2 Year Battle, Russian Federation Removes Requirements to Restrict Telegram Messenger Access

TL;DR: The Russian Federation’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), recently issued a brief statement, ending its 2 year-long battle to suppress encrypted messaging service Telegram.  

Russian Federation Removes Requirements to Restrict Telegram Messenger

Reports surfaced earlier in the week Russian Federation lawmakers Fedot Tumusov and Dmitry Ionin were planning to ease tensions with popular messaging service Telegram. Launched in part by native son Pavel Durov back in 2013, the platform grew into a global phenomenon. Its relationship with Russia, however, can be best summed up by being headquartered in the United Kingdom and operated from the United Arab Emirates.

“We positively assess the readiness expressed by the founder of Telegram to counter terrorism and extremism,” the Roskomnadzor announced on June 18th, 2020. “By agreement with the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, Roskomnadzor removes requirements to restrict access to the Telegram messenger,” insisting such olive branches were available potentially to “Internet companies operating in the country” who wish “to quickly suppress the spread of terrorist and extremist information, child pornography, and the promotion of suicide and drugs.”

Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Федеральная служба по надзору в сфере связи, информационных технологий и массовых коммуникаций) or Roskomnadzor (Роскомнадзор)

It’s undoubtedly a victory for the encrypted messaging service, as Russia was one of more than a half dozen countries, including Iran, China, Bahrain, Indonesia, Pakistan, and India, to have censored Telegram in one form or another. “The decision shows Russia ‘is strong enough to forgive,’ lawmaker Fedot Tumusov, who’d drafted the bill to lift restrictions, said by phone” to Bloomberg. “’The state must be strong, and if it makes a decision, it should carry it through to the end. But if it hasn’t succeeded in two years, it should drop it.’”

At the time of publication, it’s unclear as to why now Russia is making such a public gesture beyond trying to save face in the grim reality of policy impotence. Since the Spring of 2018, the Roskomnadzor ordered Durov and Telegram to cooperate with state intelligence agencies, and later moved to block access to the application after such overtures were rebuffed. Also at the time of publication, neither Telegram nor Durov have issued a public statement on recent developments. The service remained and remains a leading source of news for Russians regardless of government pronouncements (even the Russian Foreign Ministry and the country’s coronavirus task-force have official channels).

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