Russian Censorship Increases in Bid to Block Telegram

In the ongoing effort to ban the instant messenger app Telegram from the country, Russia’s government censorship division Roskomnadzor has taken to banning numerous IP addresses at random, currently totaling over 19 million and counting.

TechCrunch provides details on the situation, explaining exactly why Russia is so determined to take out a single app.

After refusing the government’s request to allow agents to spy on messages between Telegram users, the Russian government decided to ban the app outright throughout the entire country. They did this through blocking the IP address associated with the service.

However, Telegram did not take this lying down, switching up its IP address through a known as IP hopping, which changes the IP address associated with the app to allow users to once again access it. So far, this tactic seems to have worked, as the Russian government has currently been unable to take down the app for good, Telegram reappearing again shortly after a ban.

This strategy has come at a cost, though. Not for Telegram, but for those whose IP addresses it has used. Among the 19 million blocked by Russia so far are Google and Amazon, who were inadvertently drawn into the conflict when the messenger app hopped to their addresses. As a result, citizens in Russian can no longer access websites affiliated with either company.

Telegram creator and CEO Pavel Durov has recently taken to Twitter and other services to praise these companies and others who have unknowingly helped him evade Russian censorship, as they have not made any moves to try and stop him from IP hopping despite their own inconvenience. Additionally, he urged people to continue using Telegram as a form of “digital resistance” against the government, even going so far as to offer millions of dollars in cryptocurrency to those willing to use proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around the IP blocking.

What happens now is anyone’s guess, but it’s possible and potentially even probable the companies may call on Telegram to cease IP hopping after all (though none have publically commented on the situation yet). A similar incident happened with push-to-talk app Zello recently, which used a similar strategy to get around Russian censorship before Google and others asked it to stop.

Ironically enough, Zello’s CEO reports that, with Telegram taking all the heat from the Russian government, their services are currently working within the country.