Russia’s Telegram outage sparks speculation amid sudden social media access

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye

Telegram, the predominant messaging app in Russia, experienced a brief outage on Tuesday for reasons that remain unexplained.

Coincidentally, during this period, several previously blocked social media applications, including Instagram and Facebook, became accessible in Russia.

The monitoring centre for Russia’s public communications network reported a “massive failure” of Telegram, although the cause was not immediately apparent. Telegram did not respond to requests for comment.

Russia’s digital ministry issued a statement acknowledging the disruption, stating, “The work of Telegram messenger and a number of other services in Russia is already being restored.” The ministry added that similar outages had occurred outside Russia, and efforts were underway to determine the cause. Meanwhile, Russian telecom operators reported normal network operations.

The disruptions, affecting Telegram, YouTube, and Vkontakte, lasted around 90 minutes, as reported by Reuters. Following the Telegram outage, Instagram and Facebook, which had been previously blocked by communications regulator Roskomnadzor, suddenly became accessible in Russia.

Roskomnadzor has taken steps to block several foreign tech companies, including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram. The move aligns with Russia’s broader efforts to enhance its domestic internet infrastructure, often referred to as Runet. Moscow has even conducted tests involving disconnecting itself from the global internet to assess its preparedness.

Deputy head of the State Duma Parliamentary Committee on Information Policy,
Anton Gorelkin cautioned against immediately attributing the Telegram outages to the Russian state.

He highlighted the presence of “conspiracy theories” suggesting that Russia might be attempting to block foreign resources ahead of a March presidential election. Gorelkin emphasized the need to investigate the incident thoroughly, acknowledging that such outages could result from various factors, ranging from human error to cyberattacks. The timely resolution of these disruptions, he noted, holds significance for mitigating potential damage to the Russian economy.

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