Nickolay Vinokurov/crowdspark.com/TASS

Why do the Russian authorities for the whole year are unable to block TelegramРовно year has passed since blocking of Telegram messenger in Russia. 13 April 2018 was enacted court decision, and the 16th began his performance by Roskomnadzor (RKN). In the modern world, especially digital, is a long time to sum up such initiatives: either it is implemented successfully, or failed miserably.

It just so happened that all attempts to block the Russians access Telegram has failed. During the year, the times reported that ILV again change the offensive tactics, and now the rebel messenger will surely come to an end. But today, the Telegram is still available in mobile devices based on Android and iOS, through a web interface and desktop application.

It would seem that you can breathe. But I guess the real struggle of the Russian authorities with the “national threats” in the Network is just beginning. Last week the Federation Council approved the law on sovereign Runet, previously adopted by the state Duma and entered into force on 1 November. How to change the network landscape as a result of new, emerging only “fighting”?

The first round

Recall that the root of the conflict the Russian authorities to the Telegram was the refusal of its founder Pavel Durov to pass the FSB encryption keys personal matters. The security service hoped to use them to compute the terrorists who blew up a bomb in the subway of St. Petersburg April 3, 2017. Employees of the Telegram claimed that physically can’t do that, since all messages are encrypted on users ‘ devices and on servers messenger the keys are not covered.

The result of many months of debate was the decision of Tagansky court of Moscow about the Telegram lock on the territory of Russia. 16 April 2018 ILV began to actively block used by the messenger packets IP addresses. Since the same packages used by many Internet companies, has suffered virtually all users of Google services (including YouTube), Sony, the owners and the visitors of the websites based on the Amazon servers.

Telegram “touched” so far as. Initially, its work really faults were observed, but the first update was provided relative stability. Many users refused to use Telegram in favor of analogs, but others, in contrast, decided to try the service Durova, because there is correspondence guaranteed no one reads. The total number of Russian users has hardly changed: according to one, remained the same, and others even increased slightly. But in General in the first months after blocking, it fluctuated around 3.5–4 million people.

This is ironic: the total audience of the messenger in the world at that time was about 200 million people. In other words, the Russians — about 2% of all users that from the point of view of the business for the Telegram do not play a key role even in the context of the expected launch of its cryptocurrency messenger TON.

So the struggle against RKN was the messenger rather brand value, eventually becoming a good PR move. Pavel Durov has increased his fame abroad, and in Russia for a while became almost a national hero: it is possible to remember the past in his call for flash mobs with the launch paper airplanes.

For several months the authorities tried to figure out how to defeat the Telegram, but in vain. To persuade Amazon and Digital Ocean, through which passes a significant part of the packages of the messenger, filter their data to Roskomnadzor has failed. As well as to convince Apple to remove the application Telegram from the Russian AppStore. There was a precedent: in early 2017, Apple and Google at the request of government officials removed from their Russian of the stores the app LinkedIn. The service was blocked in Russia in November 2016, because it refused to store data about Russian users on local servers. But in the case of a messenger-a foreign company is not surrendered to Russian officials.

The second wave of the IP block too in what have not resulted. And here has not done without funny things. Major Internet services trouble averted, mass interruptions in their work were observed. But there have been cases when the owners of “smart” home appliances (controlled via the Internet) were not able to use it.

Was litigation between victims of the actions of Roscomnadzor and by the office. The first lawsuit was filed less than a week after the start of the locks 22 of April of last year, businessman Alexander by Vicarium. And in November, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme court, nothing, however, not given.

“Russian courts dismissed all the lawsuits filed in the matter of the Telegram from business, journalists and users — says “Profile” Sarkis Darbinyan, head of the Centre for the protection of digital rights, the representative of the interests of the Telegram community in the cases against RKN. — All the national stage at the moment passed, the plaintiffs moved to the level of the European court of human rights. There complaints will be consolidated into one proceeding must be a fair trial”.

Why didn’t you lock Telegram

To transfer data messenger uses thousands of IP addresses assigned to hundreds of servers around the world. Roskomnadzor calculates the blocks of addresses and prohibits Russian servers to handle it. At this moment there are two options.

1) Users use VPN that allows you to access blocked IP addresses from foreign servers.

2) Algorithms Telegram receive data on blocked addresses and start to use new.

Several updates Telegram in April–may 2018 was enough to maximize the use of both. The result of RKN blocked, according to various estimates, from 15 to 20 million foreign IP addresses, which led to unpleasant consequences for users of Google Search, YouTube, Viber, Sony PSN, video. They all used the same group of IP addresses that Telegram.

RKN had to go back down and leave blocked only about 1 million addresses. In January 2019, the became aware of a new wave of locks, but it ended the same.

Thus, the lock Telegram in Russia is possible only in case, if you do not let on the Russian server the bulk of incoming international Internet traffic.

Forbidden Telegram, its contents — no
Today Telegram closes the three messengers–leaders in Russia, the popularity behind only WhatsApp and Viber. However, not counted in the statistics chat “Vkontakte”, which is not considered a separate messenger, and sewn into the structure of the social network. Its audience is several times the number of users of all three messengers together.

“Telegram are still available in Russia, — says the head of public organization “Roskomsvoboda” Artem Kozlyuk. — As officials have not claimed that they were able to degrade the traffic of the messenger, the studies show that the user base increased, and popular channels has increased audience”.

This is confirmed by the statistics “Medialogia”. In March 2018 the cumulative audience of the 10 most popular Telegram-channels was 1 million 636 thousand people, a year later, she was almost twice more — 2 million 908 thousand By the way, the greatest increases in the period of active blocking of IP addresses: in may 2018, this figure reached 2 million 130 thousand Total audience of service on the anniversary of the “war” amounted to 4.4 million users — compared with 3.6 million a year earlier.

Of course, most of the state structures after the decision of the Tagansky court has removed your Telegram channels. While, for example, the Russian foreign Ministry did not do: on the Agency’s website is still button on the corresponding channel. “The court’s decision was about blocking the platform, but no channels” — so commented on a situation the official representative of the foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova.

Moreover, Russian officials continue to actively use is prohibited by the messenger for personal and business correspondence, resorting to his services for the maximum protection of personal data — the reason for Telegram just try to block. Perhaps if in the ruling circles there was a consensus about the need for a full and final blocking, then the result of the struggle with Telegrаm would have been different.

However, with the availability of messenger for users at times, not everything went smoothly. The Downdetector service records up to 11 crash reports Telegram per hour, and most of the problems in Russia. Users complain about the inability to connect or send a message. In such cases, often help VPN services change the IP address of the device with the Russian foreign.

By the way, about the VPN. From 1 November 2017, Russia has a law banning block bypass via VPNs and anonymizers. But, as said Artyom Kozlyuk, despite their widespread use in April–June 2018, the first notice from RCN under this law were sent just a few weeks ago in late March. The Agency demanded that ten popular VPN services in the 30 days connected to the state information system to restrict access to prohibited sites.

What’s next

According to experts, between the failed off Telegram and fresh bill on sovereign Runet there is a direct relationship. “The situation with the messenger was one of the reasons for the development of the bill, because it requires operators to put on the nodes the filter equipment, which will allow you to better block the Telegram,” says Darbinyan.

According to the chronicle of the preparation of the document, the campaign against “overly free” Internet is coming serious. Artem Kozlyuk recalls that during the third reading in the state Duma the powers ILV routing traffic passed into the hands of the government, that speaks of seriousness. On the other hand, the individual points of the law, as well as the confidence that it can be implemented in practice, leaves much to be desired.

“The document describes some mythical scenario that Americans will turn out the Internet, but without understanding, how can be such attacks on our infrastructure and exactly how to counter them. The result was a framework hollowness, which stipulated only that the government has the right to route traffic,” explains the source.

The experts agree that immediately after the entry into force of the law hardly will radically change the networking landscape. This is evidenced by the experience of the implementation of the law banning VPN “package of Spring”, the same Telegram lock. Who knows, maybe the task itself is not to block everything, but to just start the project, involving financing from the budget and contracts with specific organizations?

Nevertheless, the impact of “sovereignty” will be felt for the Russians. At least in the form of rising payments over the Internet: the increasing complexity of communications infrastructure will automatically increase the rates providers. How high in the form of a “digital iron curtain”. But there is no doubt that craftsmen will find ways around it. To break out of the “independence” of the Runet to the world wide web will be difficult, but quite real.

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