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Telegram is the favorite app in the war in Ukraine despite the experts’ concerns about privacy: NPR

An iPhone screen shows a Telegram account from OVD-Info, a prominent legal aid group in Russia that tracks political arrests in Moscow.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP


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Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

An iPhone screen shows a Telegram account from OVD-Info, a prominent legal aid group in Russia that tracks political arrests in Moscow.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Artem Kliuchnikov and his family fled Ukraine a few days before the Russian invasion.

Now safe in France with his spouse and three of his children, Kliuchnikov rolls through the Telegram to learn about the devastation in his homeland.

“Like the bombing of the maternity ward in Mariupol,” he said, “even before it hits the news, you see the videos on the Telegram channels.”

He adds: “Telegram has become my primary source of news.”

While the war in Ukraine is raging, the messaging app Telegram has emerged as the site of unfiltered live war updates for both Ukrainian refugees and increasingly isolated Russians.

What sets the app apart from the competition is its use of what are known as channels: Public or private feeds with images and videos that can be configured by one person or organization. The channels have become popular among local journalists, aid workers and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who broadcasts on a Telegram channel. The channels can be watched by an unlimited number of people. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and other popular social networks, there is no advertising on Telegram and the flow of information is not driven by an algorithm.

Andrey, a Russian entrepreneur living in Brazil who, for fear of retaliation, asked NPR not to use his last name, said Telegram has become one of the few places Russians can access independent news about the war.

“There are several million Russians who can lift their heads from propaganda and try to look for other sources, and I would say most are looking for it on Telegram,” he said.

Telegram, which does not control its content, has also become a hub for Russian propaganda and misinformation. Many pro-Kremlin channels have become popular along with reports of journalists and other independent observers.

“Russians are really separated from the reality of what is happening to their country,” Andrey said. “So Telegram has become crucial to understanding what is happening in the Russian-speaking world.”

Founder Pavel Durov says technology is meant to ‘set you free’

Telegram was founded in 2013 by two Russian brothers, Nikolai and Pavel Durov.

Pavel, Telegram’s CEO, is known as “the Russian Mark Zuckerberg”, for co-founding VKontakte, which is Russian for “in touch”, a Facebook impersonator that became the country’s most popular social networking site.

In 2014, Durov fled the country after allies in the Kremlin took control of the social networking site most people know as the VK. Russia’s intelligence service has asked Durov to release data from anti-Kremlin protesters. Durov refused to do so.

“And it set in motion a kind of battle royale over control of the platform, which Durov eventually lost,” he said Nathalie Maréchal of the Washington Lawyer Group Ranking Digital Rights.

In a message on his Telegram channel that recently reported on the episode, Durov tells wrote: “I lost my company and my home, but would do it again – without hesitation.”

After fleeing Russia, the brothers founded the Telegram as a means of communication outside the Kremlin’s circle. They now run it from Dubai and Pavel Durov say it has more than 500 million monthly active users.

In 2018, Russia banned Telegram though vise versa the ban two years later.

Pavel Durov, CEO and co-founder of Telegram speaks on stage during day one of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015.

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Pavel Durov, CEO and co-founder of Telegram speaks on stage during day one of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015.

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Durov, a billionaire who embraces a completely black wardrobe and is often compared to the character Neo from “the Matrix”, finances Telegram through his personal wealth and debt financing. And despite being one of the world’s most popular technology companies, Telegram reportedly has only about 30 employees turning to Durov for most major decisions about the platform.

“He has a kind of old-school cyber-libertarian worldview where technology is there to set you free,” Maréchal said.

A few days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Durov wrote that Telegram “increasingly became a source of unconfirmed information,” and he was concerned that the app was being used to “encourage ethnic hatred.”

He pushed the idea of ​​restricting the use of Telegram in Ukraine and Russia, a proposal that was met with fierce opposition from users. Shortly after, Durov backed the idea back.

Some privacy experts say Telegram is not secure enough

Despite Telegram’s origins, its approach to user safety has concerned advocates for privacy.

Messages are not fully encrypted by default. This means that in theory the company can access the content of the messages or be forced to hand over the data at the request of a government.

“There is a significant risk of insider threats or hacking of Telegram systems that could expose all these chats to the Russian government,” he said. Eva Galperin with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has called on Telegram to improve its privacy practices.

Recently, Durav wrote on his Telegram channel that users’ right to privacy in light of the war in Ukraine is “sacred, now more than ever.”

Individual messages can be fully encrypted. But the user has to turn that feature on. It is not automatic as it is on Signal and WhatsApp.

The golden encryption standard, known as end-to-end encryption, where only the sender and the person receiving the message are able to see it, is only available on Telegram when the secret chat feature is enabled. Voice and video calls are also fully encrypted.

But because group chats and channel features are not end-to-end encrypted, Galperin said users’ privacy is potentially threatened.

“There are many things that Telegram could have done all along. And they know exactly what they are and they have chosen not to do them. That’s why I do not trust them,” she said.

But Telegram says people want to keep their chat history when they get a new phone, and they like to have a backup of data that syncs their chats across multiple devices. And that’s why they let people choose whether they want their messages encrypted or not. When not turned on, chats are stored on Telegram’s services, which are spread all over the world. But it has “revealed 0 bytes of user data to third parties, including governments,” Telegram said in a statement. website.

“The argument from Telegram is, ‘You should trust us because we tell you we are credible,'” Maréchal said. “It really is in the eye of the beholder whether it is something you want to buy into.”

But Kliuchnikov, the Ukrainian now in France, said he will use Signal or WhatsApp for sensitive conversations, but privacy issues on Telegram do not give him a break when it comes to sharing information about the war.

“We as Ukrainians believe that the truth is on our side, whether it is the truth that you preach about the war and everything else, why do you want to hide it?” he said.

Telegram is the favorite app in the war in Ukraine despite the experts’ concerns about privacy: NPR

Source link Telegram is the favorite app in the war in Ukraine despite the experts’ concerns about privacy: NPR

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