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Telegram is a free, web-based instant messaging application that comes equipped with person-to-person encryption across mobile, desktop and web platforms. Due to its heavy security, Telegram has come under harsh criticism for its use among members of terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State.


In February 2012, Nikolai and Pavel Durov, the founders of Russia's largest social networking site VK, began developing Telegram, an end-to-end encrypted instant messaging service. Telegram launched 16 months later in August 2013.[1] The idea behind the company is to make privacy and security, not profits, the number one goal, something Telegram's founders sees lacking in companies like Google or Facebook.[4]


Telegram contains many of the same features that other instant messaging clients provide, such as accessing people worldwide over the internet, rather than through SMS, as well as the ability to synchronize across devices. The system also allows for group messaging of up to 5,000 members and the ability to send any type of document.


The most important and noteworthy feature of Telegram is its security. Telegram offers two layers of encryption: Server-client encryption and client-client encryption. This is all based on 256-bit symmetric AES encryption, 2048-bit RSA encryption, and Diffie–Hellman secure key exchange. The company is so confident in its encryption that it's offering $300,000 to anyone who can crack it.[2]

Telegram also has a feature called "Secret Chat," which offers end-to-end encryption. Therefore, those in the secret chats are the only ones who can read the messages. Messages sent in Secret Chats cannot be forwarded, and when they are deleted from one side of the exchange, the other side is automatically deleted as well.

Secret Chats also offer self-destructing messages, meaning that the user can place a timer on the message, timing it delete after being sent. As soon as the timer runs out, the message disappears from both devices.


Usage By Terrorists

Due to the heavy security features on Telegram, the app has been popular among members of the Islamic State. Telegram has become the application of choice for ISIS when it comes to planning and broadcasting, giving them a safe and secure way to record and share videos throughout the world.[3]

Telegram, known for their minimal interference, has yet to take aggressive action against these groups, unlike their competitors. For the most part, Telegram does not feel responsible for what people do with their technology. On November 17th, 2015, two days after the 2015 Paris Terrorist Attack, Telegram-founder Pavel Durov posted a picture of himself with the Eiffel Tower in the background.[5] As of June 2017, the post as received more than 26,000 likes. In the caption he wrote:

I join all those who mourn deaths in the most beautiful city of the world.
I think the French government is as responsible as ISIS for this, because it is their policies and carelessness which eventually led to the tragedy. They take money away from hardworking people of France with outrageously high taxes and spend them on waging useless wars in the Middle East and on creating parasitic social paradise for North African immigrants. It is a disgrace to see Paris in the hands of shortsighted socialists who ruin this beautiful place. I hope they and their policies go away forever and this city will once again shine in its full glory – safe, rich and beautiful.
Vive la France! 🇫🇷

Lawmakers inside the United States government have urged the service to take action against terrorist groups and to aide governments fighting them. In winter 2015, the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to Durov urging him to block content by ISIS. Signed by Texas Republican Representative Ted Poe and California Democratic Representative Brad Sherman, the letter said, "No private company should allow its services to be used to promote terrorism and plan out attacks that spill innocent blood."

Ban in Russia

On March 20th, 2018, in accordance with a 2016 law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Telegram was ordered by the Russian Supreme Court to share user data with the Russian Federal Security Services (F.S.B.).[6] The agency believes that it needs access to the app to properly protect the country from terrorist attacks. Following their loss, Telegram said that they would appeal the decision.

After the company refused to hand over user data, the Russian government's watchdog agency filed a lawsuit against the messaging app on April 6th. The lawsuit would limit access to the messenger if they did not hand over the decrypted data.[7]

The following week, on April 13th, a Russia court ruled that Telegram be blocked immediately for failing to comply with a court ruling.[9] The hearing took 18 minutes.[9][10]

That day, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov posted on the site,[8] "At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales. Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed." The post (shown below) received more than 815,000 views in one week.

Durov's Channel . The power that local governments have over IT corporations is based on money. At any given moment, a government can crash their stocks by threatening to block revenue streams from its markets and thus force these companies to do strange things (remember how last year Apple moved iCloud servers to China). At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales. Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed. 816.5K Apr 13 at 04:39

Five days later, the head of the watchdog agency Roskomnadzor, Alexander Zharov, said that in attempt to block the website it had obstructed millions of IP address. According to the New York Times,[11] Telegram moved to American web hosts, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services and repeated changed its IP address to circumvent the block.

The move caused a blackout for numerous websites including the messaging app Viber and Volvo dealerships.

Ban in Iran

On April 18th, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that they would be leaving the app. Many believe that the exit signals that the app would be banned in Iran, similar to Russia.[12]

Nearly half the country's population, about 40 million Iranians, use Telegram.

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