The Russian government has lifted a ban on Telegram two years after it announced attempts to restrict access to the encrypted instant-messaging app, the country’s communications regulator said Thursday.
“As agreed with the Prosecutor General’s office, Roskomnadzor withdraws the demand to restrict access to the Telegram messenger,” the federal communications watchdog said in a statement.
Roskomnadzor began blocking the popular app in accordance with a 2018 court order that demanded the messaging service be restricted because of its alleged use by Islamic State terrorists.
Pavel Durov, the app's Russian-born founder, was ordered to hand over the app’s encryption codes but refused, citing violations of user privacy.
But even top-tier officials such as Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov continued using the app after its developers adjusted the code to slip past Roskomnadzor’s cybersecurity barriers.
Its widespread use has continued, and even coronavirus task force operations in many Russian regions use Telegram for daily updates.
Roskomnadzor on Thursday said it was prepared to lift restrictions because Durov, who has been living in self-imposed exile since 2014, was prepared to cooperate with Russian government counterterrorism efforts to combat extremism on the platform.
Islamic State terrorists behind the November 2015 Paris attacks, which claimed 130 lives, used the app’s public channels to spread propaganda and other related content. The app shut the channels down after the attack.
Telegram’s developers say that they have since increased their ability to spot and delete extremist content on the app without compromising user privacy.
The Kremlin took note of Roskomnadzor’s decision and the reasoning for it, the Tass news agency reported, quoting Kremlin spokesman Peskov.
Founded in 2013, Telegram now has an estimated 30 million users in Russia — nearly 20% of the population.
Some information for this report came from AP and Reuters.