Russia this week lifted a nearly two-year ban on messenger app Telegram after it failed to prevent the encrypted platform from being widely used, reports Reuters.
Some Russian media portrayed the move as a capitulation, but the country’s media regulator Roskomnadzor said the company had shown “willingness” to help with counterterrorism efforts.
“Roskomnadzor is dropping its demands to restrict access to Telegram messenger in agreement with Russia’s general prosecutor’s office,” it said in a statement.
The Telegram platform allows people to communicate with each other using end-to-end encryption, meaning no-one – not even Telegram – has access to messages sent between users.
In April 2018, Roskomnadzor began legal proceedings to block the app in the country, after Dubai-based Telegram refused to comply with requests that it hand over the encryption keys that would allow it to access users’ data.
But despite blocking IP addresses and VPN services that Telegram may have used to hide traffic, the ensuing ban was largely ineffective.
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said at the time that his company had chosen to do the “only possible thing” and refused to provide Russia with decryption keys to access user messages, “preserving the right of our users privacy in a troubled country.”
Telegram has over 200 million users globally. They have included Kremlin staff, who used Telegram to coordinate conference calls with Vladimir Putin’s spokesman. Many government officials also use the messenger app to communicate with media.