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A court in Russia has ruled that the messaging app Telegram must be blocked in the country. The court has made this decision after the company refused to hand over encryption keys used to scramble messages. Last week, state communication watchdog, Roskomnadzor, had filed a lawsuit to limit access to Telegram.
"The court decided to meet the requirements of Roskomnadzor, impose restrictions on access to Telegram messenger and stop providing technical conditions for the exchange of messages," judge Yulia Smolina was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.
Telegram allows its more than 200 million global users to communicate via encrypted messages which can't be accessed by any third parties. However, Russia's FSB Federal Security service demanded access to some of those messages to track down potential terrorist attacks. According to them, Telegram is the main communication mode for "international terrorist organizations in Russia".
To their dismay, Telegram refused to give them access to the encrypted messages, citing the importance of user privacy. Naturally, the authorities didn't take much time to take legal steps against the company.
The court filing by Roskomnadzor says Telegram had failed to abide by the rules and regulations as a "distributor of information".
While Roskomnadzor head Alexander Zharov said the ban would be enforced soon, he didn't give a specific timeline. At the time of timing this story, Telegram has already been added to Roskomnadzor's register of banned websites.
Pavel Chikov, a lawyer representing Telegram, said the court decision is an example of how difficult is it for a global technology firm to operate in Russia.
"They have demonstrated again and again that the court system is devoted to serving the interests of the authorities. They no longer even care about basic external appearances," he stated on his Telegram channel.
Telegram founder and CEO, Pavel Durov, said the app will be using built-in systems to circumnavigate the ban but could not guarantee complete access without a virtual private network, or VPN.
This is not the first time something of this sort is happening; LinkedIn was also banned in Russia in 2016. Other biggies like Facebook and Google have faced the wrath of the Russian government as well.