The Russian government has ordered an immediate ban on Telegram, the encrypted messaging app, after the company ignored a court order to give the Federal Security Service access to encryption keys. The ban will come into force immediately, the Tass Russian news agency reports, and will remain in place until Telegram gives the FSB access to encryption keys.
Telegram has made its name offering encrypted messaging services to smartphone users, and it’s become notorious among cryptocurrency speculators, privacy advocates, and reportedly criminals. The FSB says that the suicide bomber who attacked the St Petersburg Metro in 2017 was using Telegram, which sparked the most recent round of legal action against Telegram.
The court ruling is not the first time Telegram has been mired in controversey, however. In February, Apple banned the app from the iOS App Store after it was found to be used for sharing child pornography. Reports have also suggested that Telegram’s servers are used to store pirated movie and music content.
Telegram has also been caught out before as an enabler of terrorist groups, thanks to its near-fanatical emphasis on user privacy. It has been blocking ISIS channels on its service for years, and was featured in how-to guides on avoiding surveillance written by terrorist organizations. Telegram has previous agreed to register with the Russian government as an information distributor, but drew the line at giving encryption keys to the FSB.
The timing is particularly bad for Telegram as the company is in the midst of an Initial Coin Offering to raise cash. According to reports, Telegram has already raised $1.7 billion in sales for its controversial blockchain-powered network.