Moscow court rules to block access to Telegram from Russia “immediately”

Today the Tagansky District Court in Moscow ruled to block “immediatley” access to instant messenger Telegram from Russia, following its refusal to provide remote access to their systems to  the FSB.

Adopted in 2016, the new Russian legislation (dubbed ‘Yarovaya law’ or ‘Big Brother law’) requires messenger apps and other “organizers of information distribution” to add “additional coding” to transmitted electronic messages so that the the FSB, Russia’s secret service, can decipher them.

Telegram agreed to register the service in Russia, but refused to abide by “laws incompatible with Telegram privacy policy.”

Roskomnadzor, the Russian Internet and telecom regulator, asked the court to ban Telegram, since information distributed on Telegram “may contain extremism and terrorism.”

Such information “could threaten Russia and all its citizens, including users of the messenger,” Roskomnadzor representative Maria Smelyanskaya told the court, as reported by Mediazona.

The trial lasted less than 20 minutes, according to media reports. It took place in the absence of Telegram’s defense team, with Telegram founder Pavel Durov refusing to “legitimize” with their presence what he considers to be “an open farce.”

Impatience to ban 

Russian law technically gives Telegram the chance to challenge the ruling in an appellate court, noted online publication Meduza. According to this procedure, the verdict wouldn’t take effect until after that court upholds the initial decision. Roskomnadzor would then issue a final warning. If Telegram ignores it, Russian ISPs would be ordered to block access to Telegram, and Google and Apple could also be told to remove Telegram from their app stores in Russia.

But Roskomnadzor has asked the Tagansky District Court to skip these last steps and sanction the blocking of Telegram right away.

Just after the ruling, Roskomnadzor stated that it would begin implementing the court decision “in the framework of the law.” Roskomnadzor’s head Alexander Zharov declined to specify when exactly the ban would be implemented. “I won’t say when I’ll strike,” the Russian busines daily Kommersant quoted him as saying today.

The ECHR in the running

In late March, Telegram filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against an 800,000-ruble fine (around $13,000 at the current exchange rate) imposed on the company for refusal to provide information on user messages decoding to FSB, according to the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI).

Meanwhile earlier this month, as reported by Russian business daily Vedomosti, two journalists, Oleg Kashin and Alexander Plushchev, filed a lawsuit against the Russian government in the ECHR, arguing that the FSB’s demands violate their rights to privacy and free expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

According to the Internet rights group Roskomsvoboda, another 40 Telegram users will soon file similar appeals with the ECHR. Telegram users have already tried to challenge the FSB’s demands in Russian court, but judges refused to hear the cases.

See the full scoop over at East-West Digital News: