Telegram founder Pavel Durov said Tuesday that he has been paying network administrators in bitcoin to bypass a government ban on his popular messaging platform.
The messaging app’s creator announced Tuesday in his Telegram channel that he had created bitcoin grants for administrators running virtual private networks (VPNs) and other proxy services to allow users access to the platform after the Russian government blacklisted Telegram for refusing to share private messages. That ban went into effect last week, and as reported this week by local media outlets, the government is doing all it can – such as blocking millions of IP addresses – in an attempt to stop people from using Telegram.
While losing Russia-based users – estimated at 7 percent of Telegram’s total base – would not have a long-term negative impact on the app, Durov said “it is important for me personally to make sure we do everything we can for our Russian users.”
“I started giving out bitcoin grants to individuals and companies who run socks5 proxies and VPN. I am happy to donate millions of dollars this year to this cause, and hope that other people will follow. I called this Digital Resistance – a decentralized movement standing for digital freedoms and progress globally.”
The decision came after internet service providers began banning Telegram on Monday, he said. Though it has been in place for more than 24 hours, the service has not seen any significant drop in usage, partly due to existing VPN and proxy services, and also because third-party cloud services which are allowing users to connect to the platform.
Telegram’s ban may be lifted if the company turns over its encryption keys to the nation’s security agencies, according to Durov. However, he added that “we promised our users 100 [percent] privacy and would rather cease to exist than violate this promise.”
The company is notably raising funds in what could be the largest initial coin offering (ICO) to date. The company has reportedly collected $1.7 billion as of today and intends to create its own decentralized ecosystem using the funds, as previously reported.