The Russian government has lifted its largely ineffective two-year-old ban on the Telegram instant messaging service.
In a message posted on its website, Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it lifted the ban after Russian prosecutors reached an agreement with Pavel Durov, Telegram’s founder.
Russian officials said Durov “expressed readiness to counter terrorism and extremism” content shared on his platform.
Details about the collaboration between Telegram and Russian officials have not been made public at the time of writing.
Russia banned Telegram following 2017 terrorist attack
Russia officially banned Telegram on April 13, 2018. The ban came after Telegram refused to cooperate with Russia’s main intelligence service, the Federal Security Service (FSB).
At the time, FSB investigators tried to obtain encryption keys from Telegram to decrypt conversations between two suspects that were under investigation in the 2017 Saint Petersburg metro bombing.
Telegram refused to cooperate, and the FSB filed a lawsuit, which t eventually won in the Russian Supreme Court in early 2018.
Russian officials initially fined Telegram, but Russian courts ordered Roskomnadzor to ban the app inside Russia after Telegram continued to cooperate.
However, Roskomnadzor had a hard time enforcing the ban over the past two years. Telegram constantly changed its servers’ IP addresses and also employed a technique called “domain fronting” to bypass the ban and allow Russian users to continue using its service.
In its efforts to ban the service in Russia, at one point, Roskomnadzor applied a temporary blanket ban on more than 19 million Amazon and Google Cloud IP addresses, blocking out countless of legitimate services inside Russia, such as all of Google’s services, online games, banking sites, cryptocurrency exchanges, and mobile apps. Russia also banned more than 50 VPN and proxy services that Russian were using to access the service.
In a twist of irony, Telegram remained extremely popular in Russia, and despite the ban was often used even by Russian politicians, with officials trusting the app to keep their conversations safe from FSB surveillance.
On Monday, Russian news site Znak reported that Russian members of parliament introduced a bill to have the app unbanned; although, it is unclear if the bill played any role in Roskomnadzor lifting the ban today.