Moscow, Russia.- Russian authorities are freezing up vast swathes of the country’s online world in what critics call a heavy-handed — and so far unsuccessful — attempt to block a popular messaging app, Telegram.
The head of the communications watchdog acknowledged Wednesday that millions of IP addresses unrelated to Telegram have been blocked since a court ordered last week that the app be taken offline.
The move has created trouble for millions of companies and consumers, and was described by some as “carpet bombing” the internet to get after one small company. Telegram was still available in Russia despite authorities’ frantic attempts to hit it by blocking other services, but many users are preparing for the worst, setting up proxies to circumvent the ban.
The row erupted after Telegram, which was developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, refused to hand its encryption keys to Russia’s intelligence agencies. The Russian government insists it needs them to pre-empt extremist attacks but Telegram dismissed the request as a breach of privacy.