Earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine, the Russian journalist Farida Rustamova used the Telegram chat app for one objective: messaging associates.
However because the authorities shut down media shops that strayed from the official line, together with the publications she wrote for, she began posting her articles on Telegram. Her feed there — the place she has written concerning the consolidation of Russia’s elites round President Vladimir V. Putin and the response amongst staff of state-run media to an on-air protest — has already garnered greater than 22,000 subscribers.
“This is among the few channels which are left the place you’ll be able to obtain data,” she stated in a name over Telegram.
As Russia has silenced impartial information media and banned social media platforms like Twitter, Fb and Instagram, Telegram has turn out to be the most important remaining outlet for unrestricted data. For the reason that warfare began, it has been probably the most downloaded app in Russia, with about 4.4 million downloads, in keeping with Sensor Tower, an analytics agency. (There have been 124 million downloads of Telegram in Russia since January 2014, in keeping with Sensor Tower.)
“Telegram is the one place in Russia the place folks can trade opinions and data freely, though the Kremlin has labored onerous to infiltrate Telegram channels,” stated Ilya Shepelin, who used to cowl the media for the now-shuttered impartial TV channel Rain and has established a weblog important of the warfare.
After the impartial radio station Echo of Moscow was shut down final month, its deputy editor in chief, Tatiana Felgengauer, stated, her Telegram viewers doubled. And after the Russian authorities blocked entry to the favored Russia information web site Meduza in early March, its Telegram subscriptions doubled, reaching almost 1.2 million.
“I get my information there,” stated Dmitri Ivanov, who research laptop science at a college in Moscow. He stated that he relied on Telegram to view “the identical media shops I belief and those whose websites I might learn earlier than.”
Opponents of the warfare use the platform for all the pieces from organizing antiwar protests to sharing media experiences from the West. In March, The New York Occasions launched its personal Telegram channel to make sure that readers within the area “can proceed to entry an correct account of world occasions,” the corporate stated in an announcement.
However the freedom that has allowed the unfettered trade of stories and opinion has additionally made Telegram a haven for disinformation, far-right propaganda and hate speech.
Propagandists have their very own well-liked channels — Vladimir Solovyov, the host of a primary time discuss present that may be a font of anti-Ukraine vitriol each weeknight, has greater than 1 million subscribers. Channels in help of Russia’s warfare, lots of them run by unidentified customers, proliferate.
State-run media shops, like Tass and RIA Information, additionally distribute their experiences through Telegram.