Last April, the Kremlin ordered a ban on the private messaging app Telegram, blocking millions of IP addresses that formed Amazon and Google's clouds in order to prevent users from accessing the service; not only was it an ominous moment in the evolution of the internet as a system for oppressive control, it was also an object lesson in how internet concentration has made the internet more susceptible to censorship and control.
In the next phase of its censorship campaign, the Kremlin has taken aim at the mobile app stores operated by the likes of Google and Apple, ordering them to remove Telegram or face a national blockade that shut them out of Russia. Apple's App Store is an especially juicy target for censors, since Apple's mobile products are designed to prevent users from getting their apps anywhere else: if you can convince Apple to block an app, then Apple's customers will not be able to get it elsewhere without heroic efforts.
Now, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has sent a Telegram message to the service's users, complaining that Apple has blocked all of Telegram's attempts to update its app, refusing even to accept an update that was meant to bring Telegram into compliance with the European GDPR. These blocks are global, affecting Telegram users inside and outside of Russia.
Unfortunately, some Telegram features, such as stickers, don’t work correctly under iOS 11.4 that was just released – even though we fixed this issue weeks ago.
Apple has been preventing Telegram from updating its iOS apps globally ever since the Russian authorities ordered Apple to remove Telegram from the App Store. Russia banned Telegram on its territory in April because we refused to provide decryption keys for all our users’ communications to Russia’s security agencies. We believe we did the only possible thing, preserving the right of our users to privacy in a troubled country.
Unfortunately, Apple didn’t side with us. While Russia makes up only 7% of Telegram’s userbase, Apple is restricting updates for all Telegram users around the world since mid-April. As a result, we’ve also been unable to fully comply with GDPR for our EU-users by the deadline of May 25, 2018. We are continuing our efforts to resolve the situation and will keep you updated.
Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.
Telegram says Apple has been rejecting its app updates even outside of Russia [Tom Warren/The Verge]