Amid a general social media lockdown, the two biggest messaging apps still avoid censorship in Russia .
Messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram have avoided Russia ‘s blockade unlike some of the world’s biggest social networks, in a subtle tolerance that experts warn could suddenly end.
Years of tension between Moscow and American Facebook and Twitter ended in confrontation after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, with the platforms targeting state-linked Russian media prompting Russia to restrict them in response.
YouTube, which has also globally removed Kremlin-linked media channels, also faced a direct threat of being blocked on Friday after Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor accused the Google -owned site of “anti-Russian” behavior.
Messaging apps, if anything, have so far remained undefeated in part because WhatsApp, owned by Meta, is less suited to mass communication, while Telegram ‘s ability to spread information to huge groups has been useful to both the media independent as for the Kremlin itself.
“I think it is unlikely that Russia will ban Telegram because they are short of platforms where they can operate,” said Sergei Sanovich, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, who recalls that in 2020 the authorities aborted efforts to block the service.
Telegram, criticized for its lax policies on content, offers Russian authorities a forum to promote narratives related to their internationally condemned military incursion.
Russia still operates accounts on platforms such as Facebook, despite the blockade of domestic service, however, the Silicon Valley giant removed posts from Moscow pages that contained misinformation about the offensive in Ukraine.
For its part, Telegram has become an essential space for exchanging news about the war, with accelerated growth caused by the Kremlin’s crackdown on independent media and the blocking of applications such as Facebook and Instagram .
An average of 2.5 million new users joined Telegram daily in the last three weeks, the company said, a jump of around 25% from previous weeks.