Russia’s decision to lift its two-year Telegram ban is going to mark the beginning of a broader movement to protect privacy-focused apps like Telegram, the company’s CEO says.

Pavel Durov, founder and CEO of Telegram, issued a statement in response to Russian authorities officially terminating the ban on the messaging app in the country last week.

Telegram’s progress in Russia to help other countries

In a June 21 Telegram post, Durov said that the company will not rest on its laurels, and is planning more efforts to support Telegram in other countries like China and Iran. According to Durov, the Telegram team has already started working on anti-censorship tools in some countries that have banned the application:

“We have decided to direct our anti-censorship resources into other places where Telegram is still banned by governments – places like Iran and China. We ask the admins of the former proxy servers for Russian users to focus their efforts on these countries.”

“To put it simply, the ban didn’t work”

Russia’s telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor started blocking Telegram in the country in April 2018. However, the app remained accessible for users in Russia due to the Telegram team actively resisting the ban through rotating proxy servers and using other anti-censorship tools.

“To put it simply, the ban didn’t work,” Telegram CEO noted, emphasizing that Telegram’s user base in Russia has actually doubled since 2018.

Telegram’s efforts to keep the app intact in Russia have marked the establishment of a decentralized movement called the “Digital Resistance.” It is thanks to the Digital Resistance that after May 2018, Telegram stayed largely accessible in Russia, Durov said, adding:

“The Digital Resistance movement doesn’t end with last week’s ceasefire in Russia. It is just getting started – and going global.”

China banned Telegram back in 2015

Durov’s digital resistance plans in countries like China and Iran might be more challenging than those in Russia. China, one of the world’s most-censored countries, banned Telegram on its territory back in 2015 as part of the country’s “great firewall” policy. The Telegram app is still reportedly accessible in China via VPN tools.

Iran, which is also highly censored, banned the messenger in May 2018 amid nationwide street protests. As reported, Telegram was estimated to have about 40 million users in the country at that time, which was roughly half its population. 

As the official Telegram is banned in Iran, local users created so-called “Telegram forks,” or unofficial Telegram applications. Often vulnerable to major attacks, such “forks” are not recommended for use by the official Telegram team.