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    Tuesday, 1 May 2018

    Thousands in Moscow slam Kremlin’s plan to block messaging app

    Thousands rallied in Moscow on Monday in support of internet freedom after Russian authorities tried to block access to the popular messaging app Telegram in the latest onslaught against dissent under Vladimir Putin. In an unusually strong turnout, around 10,000 people including top opposition leader Alexei Navalny turned up in the centre of the Russian capital, many holding placards and shooting paper airplanes, the Telegram symbol.
    Many called for Putin’s resignation. A volunteer movement that counts attendees at opposition rallies said more than 10,000 people turned up. Police said 7,500 attended.
    Under Putin, who was re-elected for a fourth Kremlin term last month, top television channels and most newspapers have been muzzled, with internet remaining the only public venue for free self-expression. But over the past months the authorities have moved in on the Russian internet, with the telecoms watchdog saying Facebook could also be blocked if it did not comply with local legislation. Earlier this month a court ruled to block Telegram in Russia after it refused to give state security services access to private conversations that are normally encrypted. But in seeking to deny access to Telegram, the state telecoms regulator blocked millions of IP addresses, disrupting the work of many businesses including car manufacturer Volvo.
    Facebook and Telegram are widely used by the opposition to coordinate protests and make political statements. A 2014 law requiring foreign messaging services, search engines and social networking sites to store the personal data of Russian users inside the country has caused widespread concern. It is seen as putting the information at risk of being accessed by Russian intelligence services.
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