Why Are Iran and Russia Trying To Ban Telegram?

Written by Nitish Singh
Last updated July 14, 2021

Telegram was founded in 2013 by Pavel Durov to protect users from the prying eyes of intelligence services. It has gone on to become one of the most popular messaging services in the world, but the platform has been used for large-scale terrorist activity and propaganda, which has brought the platform under scrutiny.

The governments of Iran and Russia are leading attempts to block the app citing national security. Telegram was pitched like a champion of privacy in the wake of the Wikileaks incident. While Facebook’s own WhatsApp became the hottest messaging platform on the market, Telegram managed to attract millions of new users with privacy being its USP.

Pavel Durov

Image Courtesy of Standard UK

Even though the app was founded in Russia, the app rejects any affiliation with this country. The growing criticism of the platform began when Telegram was used by the Islamic State which forced the company to ban public channels that were being used by the terrorist organization. However, Telegram’s founder Pavel Durov insisted that the private messages would continue to remain private despite public channels used by the ISIS being blocked.

The messaging platform uses end-to-end encryption which allows messages to be encrypted to code language without the help of a server in the middle. This makes it nearly impossible for users to gain access to any communication between two users without consent. Telegram uses its own secure messaging protocol MTProto.

Western governments have been critical of Telegram’s privacy policy but have been reluctant to ban the messaging app. Some of the largest user bases of Telegram are in Iran and Russia – two countries that have tried to block the app. Despite recent bans, users have been using VPNs to hide their geolocation data to continue using the messaging app. Despite recent ban attempts, the messaging app has refused to make concerns about the platform a political issue.

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