UPDATE 3: Moscow court rules to block Telegram until decoding keys sent
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MOSCOW, Apr 13 (PRIME) – The Tagansky Court of Moscow supported on Friday a lawsuit filed by the communications service to block popular messenger Telegram for its refusal to hand over decoding keys to the security service.
Consideration of the case was brisk with the provision of proof having taken less than half an hour.
Spokespeople for the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media and the Federal Security Service said that Telegram’s reluctance to submit decoding keys threatens interests of the state and the society and can be used by terrorists.
Telegram’s lawyers were absent from the hearing, saying that Telegram’s founder and CEO Pavel Durov banned them from attending the procedure in order not to legitimize “an ill-disguised farce.”
Telegram will be blocked in Russia until it hands over keys to decode users’ messages to the country’s authorities, the court said.
The communications service said in a statement that access to Telegram will be cut upon receipt of the corresponding court decision by the authority.
The court’s press secretary Yulia Sukhinina said the decision had been sent to the communications service.
The court earlier declined a request to delay hearings upon a demand of Telegram’s lawyers. “The court views an application (of Telegram’s lawyers) to postpone the case as an abuse of the law,” the judge said.
Dmitry Kolbasin, a spokesperson for international human rights group Agora, said Telegram’s representatives had not received the text of the communications service’s lawsuit or any other documents on the case.
“We don’t have a real opportunity to present any objections against the lawsuit or our proof since we’ve not seen the lawsuit yet,” Kolbasin said, adding that this is why lawyer Dmitry Dinze had asked the court for a delay of hearings and for receipt of documents.
A spokesperson for the Federal Security Service told the court that Telegram had failed to justify its inability to submit keys to decipher users’ messages.
“We support the claimed requirements of the communications service and find them legal and well-grounded. Telegram did not provide the Federal Security Service with the asked information or any information about its inability to fulfil the request,” the spokesperson for the security service said.
Telegram to challenge motion
Telegram’s lawyers will contest the court’s decision on the messenger’s blocking, Kolbasin said.
“Lawyers of international (group) Agora were unable to take part in this farce today. Now it’s important for us to receive today’s court decision, study it and, certainly, our lawyers are going to challenge it,” he said.
Such a fast consideration of a case has been the first in the practice of the organization’s lawyers.
“Telegram’s position is unchanged: requirements of the Federal Security Service to provide access to personal correspondence of the messenger’s users do not comply with the Constitution and are not based on the law. Besides, these requirements are technically unfeasible. The demand of blocking is unjustified and illegal,” Kolbasin said.
Aide says Durov is trapped
Presidential advisor for the Internet German Klimenko said the decision of the court is a big step toward the protection of interests and position of the state.
“There were many forecasts as to how events would develop, but the model of law functioned,” Klimenko said.
Telegram would equip users with ways to skirt the blocking, he said. “We’ll probably see an ‘arms race’, when Telegram will try to create some bypass channels, and the communications service will fight against them. I’ll bet on the communications service,” Klimenko said, adding that the watchdog has been recently showing itself rather persistent.
“I think that all officials should quit Telegram. I think all state employees should move to other resources that cooperate with state authorities. Personally, I’m shifting all my activities (to other messengers).”
When working on the territory of a country, one must cooperate with authorities. “But Durov made himself distinct by not talking to the government. It is not right, I think. It’s a good lesson for all and for Durov,” the advisor said.
“Pavel Durov got himself caught in this trap, from which escaped, in their time, Microsoft with Skype, without any loss of audience, by the way…I hope Pavel would agree with reasons of the government and will cooperate.”
Durov said on his VKontakte page that Telegram will use embedded methods of skirting the blocking, which do not require any moves from users, “but a 100% accessibility of the service without VPN is not guaranteed.”
Regardless of the blocking, Telegram will retain an opportunity of sending out notifications to all Russian users, keeping them updated of the situation. During the first hours of muting, third party’s VPN/proxy services could be overloaded and work slowly, Durov said.