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17 Apr, 2024 02:14

US government wanted backdoor to Telegram – founder

Russian-born IT entrepreneur Pavel Durov says he was “pressured” by the FBI during his stays in America
US government wanted backdoor to Telegram – founder

The US government wanted a so-called 'backdoor' in to Telegram in order to potentially spy on its users, the social media platform’s founder Pavel Durov has said in an interview with American journalist Tucker Carlson.

The attention from the FBI was one of the reasons Durov dropped the idea of setting up the company in San Francisco, he said. 

Born in St. Petersburg, Durov first founded VK, Russia’s answer to Facebook, together with his mathematician brother Nikolay. The brothers later developed the Telegram messaging service and social media platform, which describes itself as one of the safest and best-protected communication tools available.

Durov sold his stake in VK and left Russia in 2014 due to disagreements with the government. He lived in several countries while looking for the best place to run Telegram from, and ultimately settled in Dubai. 

In an interview released on Wednesday, Durov said he visited the US several times and even met with former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. He was under the watchful eye of the FBI, which made his stays in America uneasy, he said.  

“We got too much attention from the FBI, the security agencies, wherever we came,” Durov told Carlson, describing the experience as “alarming.” 

According to Durov, one of his top employees once told him that he had been approached by the US government. “There was a secret attempt to hire my engineer behind my back by cybersecurity officers,” the businessman said.

“They were trying to persuade him to use certain open-source tools that he would then integrate into Telegram’s code that, in my understanding, would serve as backdoors,” Durov said, adding that he believes the employee’s account. “There is no reason for my engineer to make up (such) stories.”

Durov went on to say that he also had “personally experienced similar pressure” in America, where law enforcement officials approached him on multiple occasions. 

Whenever I would go to the US, I would have two FBI agents greeting me at the airport, asking questions. One time, I was having breakfast at 9 am and the FBI showed up at the house that I was renting.

“My understanding is that they wanted to establish a relationship to control Telegram better. I understand that they were doing their job. [But] for us, running a privacy-focused social media platform, that probably wasn’t the best environment to be in,” Durov explained. 

The tech entrepreneur acknowledged that Telegram has been used by protest organizers in many countries around the world. He stressed, however, that he wants the platform to remain politically neutral.