Telegram on the Rise: Encrypted Messaging App Nears a Billion Users

Telegram on the Rise: Encrypted Messaging App Nears a Billion Users

Telegram on the Rise: Encrypted Messaging App Nears a Billion Users

London, EnglandTelegram, a behemoth in the social media landscape, is on track to hit a significant milestone: one billion active monthly users by year’s end, according to its billionaire founder, Pavel Durov.

In an interview with American commentator Tucker Carlson on Tuesday, Mr. Durov declared, “Telegram is spreading like wildfire.” But what exactly is Telegram, and why the sudden surge in popularity?

On the surface, Telegram appears quite familiar. It functions as an encrypted messaging service, allowing users to engage in private messaging and post to a feed, akin to other established platforms. Mr. Durov himself conceived the idea of an encrypted messaging app as a means of secure communication during his time in Russia. His younger brother, Nikolai, masterminded the encryption technology.

Following pressure to censor VK, a social media network he previously ran, Mr. Durov departed Russia in 2014. Today, Telegram boasts an impressive 900 million users, with particular popularity in Russia and former Soviet Union countries. It ranks amongst the major social media platforms globally, sitting behind Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok, and WeChat.

Interestingly, Telegram was blocked within Russia in 2018 due to the company’s refusal to hand over encryption data. However, the ban proved ineffective, failing to curb usage, and was ultimately lifted two years later. The communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, attributed the reinstatement to Telegram founder Mr. Durov’s supposed willingness to cooperate in combating terrorism and extremism on the platform, though this claim remains dubious.

During the ban period, Telegram’s influence was so pervasive that even government departments, including the Russian Foreign Ministry and the national coronavirus taskforce, maintained official channels on the app.

The 2022 invasion of Ukraine saw a surge in Telegram usage, fuelled by its unfiltered content, which sometimes included misleading information about the war. Following the invasion, the Kremlin introduced a harsh law threatening imprisonment for up to 15 years for those spreading “fake” information concerning Russia’s armed forces.

This was compounded by partial restrictions on access to Facebook after Meta refused to cease fact-checking content from Russian state-owned media outlets. Restrictions on Russian news access became so severe that a Finnish newspaper resorted to hiding war-related news within a secret room in the video game Counter-Strike.

Mr. Durov, in his interview with Mr. Carlson, maintained his commitment to keeping Telegram “neutral” and “free from geopolitics.” He stated, “I would rather be free than take orders from anyone.” He emphasized that Telegram serves as a platform for both opposition campaigners and governments, remaining neutral in political disputes.

In his view, “The competition of different ideas can result in progress and a better world for everyone.” Interestingly, after exploring London, Berlin, Singapore, and San Francisco as potential headquarters, Mr. Durov ultimately chose the United Arab Emirates, citing its neutrality and lack of alignment with any major superpower.

He dismissed claims of Telegram being under Russian control as mere rumours spread by competitors anxious about the app’s growth.

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