Russia’s internet watchdog has blocked an estimated 16m IP addresses in a massive operation against the banned Telegram messaging app that could set a new precedent for Russian online censorship.
The “battle for Telegram” pits one of Russia’s most popular messaging apps – with more than 13 million users – against the internet censor Roskomnadzor, in a public cat-and-mouse game to block traffic that has put the agency’s reputation on the line.
Telegram is widely used by the Russian political establishment, and prominent politicians and officials have openly flouted or criticised the ban. Data from the app showed several Kremlin officials had continued to sign in on Tuesday evening, four days after a court ordered the service to be blocked over alleged terrorism concerns.
Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower living in Russia, also came out in support of Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, on Tuesday, tweeting: “I have criticized @telegram’s security model in the past, but @Durov’s response to the Russian government’s totalitarian demand for backdoor access to private communications – refusal and resistance – is the only moral response, and shows real leadership.”
Backed by Russia’s federal security service (FSB) and a court decision, Roskomnadzor has pushed forward, banning subnets, totalling millions of IP addresses, used by Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, two hosting sites that Telegram switched to over the weekend to help circumvent the ban.