The trouble with Telegram

If you’re a Russia-watcher, or even Russia-curious, you have likely heard of the Telegram messenger—perhaps you even have a Telegram account. Created in 2013 by internet entrepreneur Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most-popular social network, VKontakte (VK), Telegram has gained a cult following and a loyal fan base in Russia and beyond. As of March 2018, Telegram had over 200 million active monthly users. What makes this messenger service so newsworthy and attractive? And what is its current status in Russia? Is there more to what happens on Telegram than mere encrypted chatting and daily doses of political gossip?

To explain why Telegram is so central to the Russian online experience, I wrote an explainer for PONARS Eurasia’s Point & Counterpoint project.

Shrouded in its self-made mythology of security and privacy, Telegram offers a level playing-field to all kinds of actors in Russia, creating a portable private-public sphere where anyone can be anonymous and yet be the darling of thousands of users hungry for every new disclosure and morsel of opinion.

Read the whole piece on the peculiar role of Telegram in Russia’s networked public sphere on the PONARS website.


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