Court rules to block Telegram messenger in Russian Federation

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Moscow's Tagansky District Court on Friday granted the demand of Russia's state sensor Roskomnadzor to block the access to the Telegram messenger in Russian Federation due to its refusal to provide user data. "The court ruled to satisfy the demand of Rosomnadzor", judge Yulia Smolina said.

Telegram is the second global network to be blocked in Russia after LinkedIn was banned in 2016 for failing to comply with a law that requires companies holding Russian citizens' data to store it on servers on Russian soil.

The FSB had requested that Telegram, which has more than 200 million users worldwide, hand over its encryption keys, which would allow the authorities to read all messages sent using Telegram. Earlier this week, the court called the FSB as a third party in the case and accepted Roskomnadzor's request to immediately block Telegram if requested. A spokesperson for the Kremlin says that the office will move to a new messaging service. However, Russia's FSB Federal Security service demanded access to some of those messages to track down potential terrorist attacks.

After Friday's ruling, Alexander Zharov, the head of Roskomnadzor, said he would not say the "exact time when the block on Telegram will begin", adding that it would be "soon". Telegram is arguably the first widely popular means of communications in Russian Federation that has been officially banned.

Telegram has been utilized by ISIS and its supporters, whatever the company claiming to have closed down many pro-ISIS channels. The company said that FSB doesn't have a ground to issue such an order, because it goes against the law demanding a court judgment for access to users messages. The watchdog warned the service that it would take the matter to court unless the keys are provided within 15 days.

"The FSB's requirements to provide access to private conversations of users are unconstitutional, baseless, which can not be fulfilled technically and legally", said Pavel Chikov, Telegram's lawyer. Providers will block the app starting from April 16. The Iranian government took a similar step on New Year's Eve, which Telegram argues was motivated by the fact that Iranian political opposition were using the platform to communicate.