Founder reveals biggest influences on Telegram app

Pavel Durov stated that both major US political parties attempted to influence Telegram’s developers.

Telegram received warnings from both the Democratic and Republican parties after the January 2021 riots at the US Capitol, according to Pavel Durov, co-founder of the widely used messaging app, in an interview with Tucker Carlson. However, according to Durov, the most pressure comes from tech behemoths Apple and Google.

This unique interview took place in the office of the Russian-born IT entrepreneur in Dubai and was made public on Wednesday. Carlson requested that Durov provide an instance of a request to implement backdoors into Telegram that infringed on privacy or could be construed as espionage or a violation of people’s privacy. The messaging service claims to have more than 900 million active users.

“There was a peculiar incident involving your home country,” the tech entrepreneur replied. “Following the events of January 6, we got a letter from, I believe, a Democratic congressman, demanding that we provide all the data we possessed concerning what they called “that uprising.”

On January 6, 2021, a group of supporters of then-US President Donald Trump attacked the US Capitol, forcing lawmakers into hiding as they tried to stop Congress from officially recognising Joe Biden’s election victory.

Durov said that his staff reviewed the letter and it “appeared quite serious,” essentially stating that “if you fail to comply with this request, you will be violating the US Constitution.”

“Two weeks after that letter, we received a new letter from the Republican side of Congress, stating that if we provided any data [to the Democrats], it would violate the US Constitution.

So, we got two letters that stated we would be breaking the US Constitution no matter what we did.”

Durov continued by saying that US tech behemoths exert the most influence on Telegram overall. “I would argue that the biggest pressure is not coming from governments. It is coming from Apple and Google. When it comes to free expression, these two platforms could theoretically censor anything you read or access on your smartphone,” he said. “They make it very clear that Telegram may be removed from the [app] stores if we do not adhere to their so-called guidelines.”

Durov dismissed any suggestion of ties between Telegram and the Russian government, speculating that such rumours may have been spread by competitors to discredit the company.