Telegram vs. Russia: human rights defenders ask the UN to stand up for messenger

Telegram vs. Russia: human rights defenders ask the UN to stand up for messenger

Lawyer Damir Gainutdinov from Agora asks for recommendation to the Russian Federation Government "to refrain from expanding the practice of arbitrary interference in the right to freedom of expression, privacy and anonymity, including online."

Human rights defenders ask the UN to stand up for Telegram in a dispute with Russia - the international human rights group Agora, representing the interests of the messenger, appealed to UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye with a request to interfere with the situation. Kommersant reviewed the letter of Agora from December 13.

Damir Gainutdinov, an advocate from Agora, asks Mr. Kaye for recommendation to the Russian Federation Government "to refrain from expanding the practice of arbitrary interference in the right to freedom of expression, privacy and anonymity, including online." Agora points out that the antiterrorist law obliges communication services to provide the FSB with the keys to decrypt users' messages, and special services do not even need a prior judicial authorization for access to such information.

Agora indicates that the technologies used do not allow Telegram to fulfill this requirement: regularly modifiable encryption keys are generated on users' devices, and the transmitted messages are not stored on the service servers. "No one, including the software developer and the service administrator, has the technical ability to obtain or make duplicates of these keys," Agora states.

The authorities have grounds for blocking Telegram - a formal reason may be a fine for refusing to pass encryption keys for deciphering correspondence over six phone numbers. On December 12 the Moscow court rejected the appeal of the messenger’s representatives on a decision to pay a fine of 800 thousand rubles ($13.500).

Agora is sure: the actions of the Russian authorities are aimed at "destroying anonymity on the Internet" and contradict the resolution of the UN General Assembly "Right to Privacy in the Digital Age".

Lawyer Gainutdinov compares the trial of Telegram with the case of FBI vs. Apple, from which the intelligence services demanded to extract data from the smartphone of terrorists. The desire of special services to monitor communications of citizens under the pretext of combating terrorism is universal, and it is also necessary to resist it jointly, the lawyer believes. Agora plans to appeal against the actions of the Russian authorities in the ECHR.

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