Update, 6/4/18, 6:30am PT:
Apple seems to have stopped the temporary ban on Telegram app updates in the iOS App Store. Pavel Durov, Telegram's CEO, thanked the company on Twitter for allowing Telegram to send updates to its users.
Original, 5/31/18, 10:45am PT:
Recently, Roskomnadzor, the Russian media regulator, sent Apple a letter demanding that it remove the Telegram chat application from its App Store. The company has remained silent on the issue since then, even as Telegram’s CEO now accuses it of blocking his app’s updates globally since mid-April.
Apple Blocks Telegram Updates
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov, a Russian who founded the country's own Vkontakte social network before launching Telegram, accused Apple of blocking the messenger’s updates for the past month-and-a-half. That’s when Roskomnadzor asked Apple for the first time to remove Telegram from the App Store.
Durov said in a post:
Apple has been preventing Telegram from updating its iOS apps globally ever since the Russian authorities ordered Apple to remove Telegram from the App Store. Russia banned Telegram on its territory in April because we refused to provide decryption keys for all our users’ communications to Russia’s security agencies. We believe we did the only possible thing, preserving the right of our users to privacy in a troubled country.
He noted that Apple has restricted updates to all Telegram users around the world, despite the fact that Russian users represent only 7% of the app’s total user base.
Apple Remains Silent
Apple hasn’t responded to emails from us or from other publications such as Reuters and BBC. The company seems to have remained silent about this issue, presumably until its leadership can make-up its mind about whether or not to fully comply with the Russian government and kick Telegram out of its store or stand up against it.
One reason why the company may even be pondering what to do here is because this is an issue about encryption and privacy. The reason the Russian government wants Apple to remove Telegram from its App Store is because Telegram wouldn’t provide it with the app’s decryption keys.
Apple has taken a relatively strong pro-encryption stance in the past, fighting the U.S. government on this issue, too, a fight that we could say it won. However, that issue affected the company directly, while this is about a third-party app on its App Store. Apple may still want to be seen as standing-up for its platform’s developers against what many would consider an unreasonable request from a foreign government.