Telegram CEO Pavel Durov recently clashed with the Russian government, and announced he’ll be using Bitcoin to launch a “digital resistance” movement that will fund pro-privacy tech groups.
Durov left Russia after he was forced out of his own social media company VK, by allies of President Vladimir Putin. He was dismissed as the social network’s CEO when he refused to give up the personal information of Ukrainian protesters in 2013, during the Russian military-backed crisis.
Durov, at the time, revealed that Russia was "incompatible with Internet business". Since then he has been an outspoken advocate of personal privacy and data protection, going on to found the hugely successful Telegram app, which currently has over 200 million users and offers encrypted messaging. The entrepreneur believes it cannot be hacked.
Telegram has become deeply integrated into the world of cryptocurrency, with most initial coin offerings (ICOs) using the app to get in touch with their followers, in order to make announcements and answer questions.
The app was banned in Russia earlier this month, following an 18-minute hearing that revolted Telegram’s lawyers. Upon leaving it, they claimed they would not "legalize with their presence something that was a blatant farce.” Russia has begun enforcing the ban by blocking millions of IP addresses owned by Google and Amazon, in a move intended to prevent the addresses from being used to circumvent the ban.
A Digital Resistance Movement
The chief executive has pledged millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin (BTC) from his own funds to set up grants that will fund what he calls a Digital Resistance against the Russian government. He aims to start a network that will provide the infrastructure necessary for people to use Telegram in Russia despite the ban, and will be paying network administrators Bitcoin to keep it going.
He announced the plans on his personal Telegram page, where he clarified that it wasn't about the money. Telegram gains half a million followers a day, and Durov claims only about 7 percent of its users are Russian.
"To support internet freedoms in Russia and elsewhere I started giving out bitcoin grants to individuals and companies who run socks5 proxies and VPN [virtual private networks]. I am happy to donate millions of dollars this year to this cause, and hope that other people will follow. I called this Digital Resistance – a decentralized movement standing for digital freedoms and progress globally."
His brazenly-announced plan to create an underground network of servers and VPN providers covertly funded with BTC could create a resistance movement that supports the fight for privacy and data protection worldwide.