UPDATE 4: Supreme Court throws out Telegram suit to Federal Security Service
(Adds comment from Durov in paragraph 11)
MOSCOW, Mar 20 (PRIME) -- Russia’s Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday a lawsuit of messenger Telegram to cancel an order of the Federal Security Service regulating provision of its officers with information to decode messages of users by organizers of information distribution.
International human rights group Agora, acting on behalf of Telegram, asked the Supreme Court to declare the Federal Security Service’s order dated July 19, 2016 void.
Getting the decoding keys will enable the service to access messages of all users.
The service said it will monitor correspondence of only some users without a court decision, but if it needs more data, the service will go to court.
A Telegram spokesperson said the messenger will contest the court’s decision. “We’ll file an appeal anyway,” the spokesperson said.
Under the law, Telegram has 30 days to challenge the court’s move. The court is to equip the parties with the statement of reasons in 10 days.
The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media said it had notified Telegram of the need to follow the law on provision of information to security entities and gave the messenger 15 days to give data to the Federal Security Service.
“If the organizer of information distribution in the Internet fails to fulfil its obligations within the period stated by this warning… access to information resources of the organizer of information distribution in the Internet is restricted by a connection operator…on the basis of a decision of the court that takes effect until fulfilment of such obligations,” the communications watchdog said.
Telegram has already faced the threat of being blocked in Russia after a refusal to provide the communications service with information to be added to the register of organizers of information distribution. Telegram obeyed and provided its registration data.
“In case of a failure to fulfil its obligations duly …the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media will file a lawsuit to court with a demand to limit access to Internet resources of company Telegram Messenger Ltd on the territory of the Russian Federation. A decision to restrict access will be made by court,” a spokesperson for the communications service said.
Telegram’s founder Pavel Durov said in his Twitter account, “Threats to block Telegram unless it gives up private data of its users won’t bear fruit. Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy.”
Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said that court decisions must be obeyed, and no exceptions are possible.
“Court moves need no comment; they must be executed on the territory of the Russian Federation. If there is a court decision, it is obligatory for fulfilment. We have no exceptions,” the minister said.
Arseny Shcheltsin, head of the Russian Association of Cryptocurrency and Blockchain (RACIB), said that Telegram’s owner Pavel Durov could resist cooperating with Russian authorities in order to avoid sanctions from the U.S.
“Perhaps it’s a form of safety. He helps in all possible ways and reports to the U.S. government, but fully ignores the Russian government, perhaps, to avoid any sanctions from the U.S. authorities,” Shcheltsin said.