Telegram's resistance to Russian crackdown takes paper wings

Telegram’s resistance to Russian crackdown takes paper wings

In the middle of its Initial Coin Offering (ICO), Russian courts attempted to have social media platform Telegram turn over encryption keys for the application. When Telegram refused, citing customer privacy concerns, Russia ordered the company to be blocked in the country, but, as any dedicated entrepreneur would do, Telegram’s founder Pavel Durov and the entire community found ways around the system, and many began protesting the court’s action.

Telegram fans began launching paper airplanes (the airplane is Telegram’s logo) at the headquarters of Russia’s security agency, the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (FSB). The airplane antics have resulted in several protestors being arrested, but this hasn’t stopped the movement. Durov is now pushing for extended protests, requesting that protestors fly their airplanes at the FSB building en masse at a specific time.

The ordeal began on April 13, when a Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitri S. Peskov, argued for the necessity of the information, telling the court, “There is a certain legislation that demands certain data to be passed to certain services of the Russian Federation.” The courts agreed and Judge Yulia Smolina ordered the ban, saying that it will remain until the FSB’s demands are met.

Durov said on his personal Telegram channel, “For 7 days Russia has been trying to ban Telegram on its territory – with no luck so far. I’m thrilled we were able to survive under the most aggressive attempt of internet censorship in Russian history with almost 18 million IP addresses blocked.”

In a separate post following the ban, Telegram explained, “We don’t do deals with marketers, data miners or government agencies. Since the day we launched in August 2013 we haven’t disclosed a single byte of our users’ private data to third parties.” This was followed by a post by Durov, who said, “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.”

About four days ago, protestors began targeting their airplanes for the FSB building. It didn’t take long for police to show up, dispersing the crowd and making arrests. One of those arrested was Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot. Alyokhina and the other members of the all-girl band have found themselves in hot water with the police several times for controversial lyrics and inappropriate performances. She appeared before a judge, booked for “blocking a public passageway” and was released.

This past Monday, Durov was on his Telegram channel, urging activists to support the cause. He posted, “If you live in Russia and support free internet, fly a paper plane from your window at 7 PM local time today. Please collect the airplanes in your neighborhood an hour later – remember, today is Earth Day. My thanks to all the members of the #Digitalresistance movement. Keep up your great work setting up socks5-proxies and VPNs and spreading them among your Russian friends and relatives. They will be needed as the country descends into an era of full-scale internet censorship.”

Telegram has become the main platform for cryptocurrency-related conversations, as well as, in some cases, transactions. Hopefully, there will be a resolution that is amicable to both sides in the near future.

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