Russia demands that Apple removes Telegram from App Store

Regulator seeks to restrict users' access to encrypted messaging app as usage continues

Russia's communication watchdog has asked Apple to block popular messaging app Telegram, which has been banned in the country for its refusal to hand over private conversations to security services.

Roskimnadzor, the state regulator, has reportedly called on Apple to block push notifications for Russian users who have already downloaded Telegram, and to ban it from its Russian App Store to prevent anyone else from using it.

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"In order to avoid possible action by Roskomandzor for violations of the functioning of the above-mentioned Apple Inc. service, we ask you to inform us as soon as possible about your company's further actions to resolve the problematic issue," said the regulator.

IT Pro has contacted Apple to ask how it plans to respond to the regulator's request, to which it has a month to formulate a reply.

Telegram, which is an encrypted messaging service, has been banned in Russia since 16 April, after a court ruled that its creator, Pavel Durov, failed to comply with legislation requiring the company to give the federal security services access to users' encrypted messages. However, Roskomandzor estimated that the ban has only disrupted usage of the app by between 15% and 30%, with users still able to log in via VPNs.

Earlier this month the Iranian government issued a countrywide ban on Telegram, cutting off some 40 million users, in support of Russia's stance.

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Despite being popular with institutions like the Kremlin, Russia's government has targeted the messaging app for its tight encryption and focus on privacy, which the regulator claims enables terrorists to plan attacks.

So far the Russian state has struggled to implement a comprehensive ban on the service as users have used techniques like domain fronting to avoid the authorities, which saw Gmail and Google search partially blocked in Russia after the state accused the US search engine of helping people to continue using the service.

Thousands of its users even held a protest in Moscow on 30 April, which saw them march through the Russian capital and throw paper planes, the Telegram logo, demanding the service be unblocked.  

While the state seeks to punish those that enable Telegram to continue, Durov continues to operate in exile with a team of Telegram engineers, and was recently spotted in Dubai.

Picture: Shutterstock

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