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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 11th May 2018 > Kill the Messenger

Kill the Messenger

Russia is attempting to curtail internet access by blocking Telegram, the country’s largest service Tech-savvy citizens are fighting back

INTERNET

@owenmatth

CHINA HAS ITS OWN GREAT firewall. Turkey has been blocking swaths of the internet, including YouTube, for at least a decade. So until last month, Russia was a glaring standout among authoritarian nations in allowing its people relatively free access to the World Wide Web.

No longer. In what is shaping up to be a historic showdown, the Russian state has mounted its first major assault on cyberfreedom. On April 15, Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) began trying to block Telegram, a secure messaging service and blogging platform used by more than 15 million Russians. Its crimes? Refusing to comply with a new law that obliges all internet companies to physically store their data on Russian users in the country, and failing to hand over secure “keys” to enable secret police to read encrypted messages.

Even if Telegram had wanted to comply, it couldn’t; the platform provides encryption between one user and another, preventing Telegram from hacking into its own messages. Still, it is Russia’s “first huge act of censorship,” says Ilya Andreev, co-founder of Estonia-based Vee Security, a software company that has been helping Telegraph users bypass the ban. “The government has been blocking small [internet] resources since 2014,” he adds. If RKN succeeds with this block, “worse [ones] will come.”

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