That said, even if Telegram was passively enabling some murky business to take place, it appears to have lacked access to a fair hearing. OpenDemocracy explains how the Telegram case was fast-tracked through the courts in the wake of Vladimir Putin's re-election. The subsequent hearing, on April 13th, apparently only took 18 minutes to play out, and Telegram representatives were reportedly not permitted to travel to the court or request a delay.
It's not likely that Russia is concerned with the optics of the move, but its scorched-earth policy may hurt its standing in the technology world. In an editorial published in business publication Vedomosti, Russian journalist Yelizaveta Osetinskaya says entrepreneurs may not want to do business there. After all, what sort of person would launch a startup in the country that has such a blatant disregard for corporate interests and the rule of law?
And it's fair to remember that founder Pavel Durov was considered something of a great Russian success story. According to Statista, Telegram is the world's ninth-biggest messenger, just behind Line, Snapchat and Viber. Unfortunately, Durov was forced to leave the country in 2014, after being forced out of his role at "Russian Facebook," VKontakte. Since then, he has become an outspoken critic of the country's repressive regime and policies.
In response to today's ruling, Durov posted a missive to his public Telegram channel offering his feelings on the matter. "We promised our users 100 percent privacy," he said, "and would rather cease to exist than violate this promise." Durov also claimed the ban has not -- yet -- caused a drop in user engagement in the country since many Russians use proxies and VPN services. The CEO did, however, publicly thank Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft for "not taking part in political censorship," and said that he would hand out Bitcoin grants to groups who help run VPNs and proxy servers within the country. It's not clear if Apple and Google will acquiesce to Russia's demands; although, it's likely that they will, given similar capitulations related to VPN apps in China. But it's clear that Durov isn't prepared to go quietly into the night.
Durov's battle with Russia will serve as a test run for a much bigger fight that is likely to come later this year between the Kremlin and Facebook. Much like LinkedIn, the currently-embattled social network was told to move its local data storage to Russia, where information about users could be accessed by the authorities. In an interview with the Kremlin-aligned Izvestia Daily, and outlined by the Moscow Times, Roskomnadzor head Alexander Zharov said Facebook would be inspected by the end of the year. And, if officials aren't happy about their access to people's private communications, then "the blocking question will come up," Zharov reportedly said.