Another day, another attempt to constrict the basic human rights of humans. Though I have written extensively on the United States’ actions against freedom of speech and net neutrality, this article’s focus is on Russia.

The attack on telegram

While I hold no illusion over the egregious assaults on its citizens’ personal liberties by the Russian Government, a recent threat stuck with me. They are apparently going after Telegram.

For any of you who do not know, Telegram is a messaging app that heavily encrypts messages and can even place a destructive timer on the message(s) being sent, think how SnapChat deletes a photo after a certain amount of time. All of this means that it was incredibly popular among individuals and groups who wanted to maintain privacy in their lives without fear of a Man in the Middle reading what was being sent or a compromised device pouring through their local data.

Pavel Durov -Telegrams founder- expressed just how much privacy of users meant to the company as a whole, and that they have never and would never make deals with government bodies which would threaten those ideals.

For these reasons, many cryptocurrency traders used the app to talk about trades with their partners and friends. It even has been the spawning ground of some trading based bots to help individuals make smarter altcoin trades.

These attractive reasons may be why Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor has claimed that Telegram is in violation of Russian laws, and it has threatened to block Telegram if it does not provide greater information on the company. Apparently, the window for Telegram to provide this information is closing fast. We may see a telegramless Russia.

Why this matters

While it may seem easy enough for Telegram users to move over to a similar messaging app such as WhatsApp/Viber, this instance sets a troubling precedent. Here we have a government infringing on the rights of its citizens to privacy -as outlined in Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights- and attacking the business model of a private endeavor just because they did not want to provide metadata of its users to be stored in government data centers.  

Such arrogant defiance and disregard for the rights of its citizen’s right to free speech and privacy by curtailing a popular avenue is not easily undone. I mentioned before that users can just go to a different app, but what if those apps do not bend to the will of the Russian Federation like Telegram, then there will be increasingly fewer places for users to turn. Worse yet, what if they do? User’s private lives may be compromised, stored somewhere in a Russian Mega-data center with algorithms and analysts poring over an individual’s private life in meticulous detail.

When one country can get away with this and there is very little pushback on an international scale, we can expect that it may happen in the countries which did not care to push back. An attack on one person’s privacy and rights in one country is an attack on yours just as much. It plays into the erosion of individual rights. It feels slightly strange to say it, but an attack on Telegram is an attack on us all.

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