MOSCOW – A Moscow court fined internet messenger service Telegram on Monday after it refused to hand over its users’ data to Russia’s Federal Security Service, according to the popular application’s founder.
Telegram Messenger LLP was handed an 800,000 ruble ($14,000) administrative fine after being declared guilty of refusing to hand over, under Russian anti-terror legislation, data that would enable the FSB – Russia’s security agency – to de-encrypt Telegram users’ communications, Pavel Durov said.
“The FSB’s wish to get access to private correspondence is an attempt to expand its influence at the expense of citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms,” Durov wrote on his social network VKontakte page on Monday.
Last June, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roscomnadzor), published an open letter to Durov, ordering him to register his company as a foreign news outlet or risk having its access to Russia blocked.
Durov abandoned Russia in 2014, after denouncing pressures from the security services which wanted him to reveal information on Russian opposition forces using the VKontakte social network, which Durov developed in 2006.
Durov then founded Telegram in 2013 with his brother and vowed, back then, to never share any code or data with third parties, sovereign governments included.
The Telegram instant messenger service, which became an instant success story, is currently in the sights of various countries who have accused it of facilitating communications between Islamic State terrorists.
Last May, Europol’s director, Rob Wainwright, also accused the instant messenger of not being sufficiently forthcoming with European police in its fight against terror.