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Protesters fill Moscow to oppose Russia's ban of Telegram messenger

Around 20 protesters were detained by authorities.

Maxim Zmeyev / AFP/Getty Images

Telegram is a messaging app that, like WhatsApp, encrypts user messages. The Russian government wasn't having that, and in April banned the app. Backlash came in the form of protests in Moscow on Sunday.

Crowds of people were led by Mikhail Kasyanov, Russia's former prime minister and outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin. "The authorities want to take away our secret messages, our private lives," he told the crowd, according to Reuters. "The internet is the main freedom that exists for all of us. We cannot let that happen."

The protesters chanted against state communication agency Roskomnadzor and flew paper planes in the air in reference to Telegram's logo. Over 20 protesters were detained by authorities, according to human rights group OVD-Info.

This is the second such reaction to the Telegram ban, following a similar protest around a fortnight after the initial ban last month. Russia's government is not the only one uncomfortable with Telegram's all-too-secure platform, with Iran ordering its internet service providers to block the app in late April.

Russia first threatened to ban Telegram, which in March reached 200 million monthly active users, last year after claiming terrorists used the encrypted messaging app to plot an attack that eventually left 16 people dead. 

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) originally wanted Telegram to turn over its encryption keys, so it could see messages sent between Telegram users in the hopes of foiling terrorist attacks. But that's not necessarily possible, with the company claiming it doesn't have those keys because it uses end-to-end encryption, where users -- not Telegram -- have the keys to their own secret messages. This is also how WhatsApp and Signal work.