The FSB’s announcement follows a public
row between the head of Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media watchdog, and
Telegram founder Pavel Durov.
Roskomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov
publicly appealed to Durov on Friday, asking him to hand over data
in order to register Telegram in a state-controlled database.
The agency chief — who made similar
appeals back in May — warned that the app could be banned in Russia
if the company did not comply.
Zharov later went on to accuse Telegram
founder Pavel Durov of “ignoring the safety of ordinary Telegram
users” and being “neutral” toward the “terrorists and criminal
who use his service.”
Durov dismissed the accusations,
writing on Russian social media site VKontakte that Telegram had
blocked more than 5,000 terrorism-related channels and groups since
the start of June.
He also said that Telegram would not
hand over its encryption keys, arguing that this demand violated the
Russian constitution. “These requests contradict article 23 of
the Russian Constitution, which guarantees private correspondence. It
also shows a lack of understanding as to what encryption is like in
2017,” he said.
Zharov was not alone in his criticism of Durov. Three flagship news shows on Russian
state television featured reports on Telegram. The popular Voskresenoe Vremya on Russia’s Channel One accused Durov of being “an anarchist,” while a report on NTV said that Durov considered individual rights more important than the threat of terrorism.
Telegram had 6 million active Russian
users as of January 2017, up from just 2 million at the start of
2016. According to company data, 60 percent of all Telegram downloads
originate in Russia.