As in all crises, those affected often turn to messaging applications to stay in touch with their loved ones and communicate with the rest of the world. One of the most popular in the world (especially in Ukraine), is Telegram.
This app was built around the idea that communication should be personal and encrypted. And as such, it has also become a popular tool for journalists, who have created various public news channels.
Telegram, the preferred application for reporting in Ukraine
The messaging application began to gain traction in Ukraine when Fedir Popadyuk created the first telegram channel from the middle ukrainian Ukrayinska Pravda in 2017. “I thought: ‘There is a platform and there are people interested in it. We need to cover this audience,’” said Popadyuk, who oversees the online newspaper’s Telegram channels.
By 2018, almost half of Telegram’s Ukrainian audience was under 25 years old and usually did not hear the news from TV or radio, according to a poll conducted that year by the marketing research company Kantar.TNS.
“The purposes of the messaging app have changed,” Marina Kostromina, account director at Kantar Ukraine, told NiemanLab in 2019. “While last year it was mainly used to communicate with friends, now it is also used to share files and read news,” he said.
This trend is global in recent years, but regional characteristics are key to making the application an effective multimedia center for distributing information, says a report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
Another reason why so many journalists in Ukraine have chosen to use Telegram is that they find it a convenient platform to experiment with formats and tones of voice. Additionally, it allows unlimited number of subscribers in a channel and also provides a view counter for posts that include forwarded copies.
“We understood that Telegram is quite effective as a medium. If you post something on Facebook, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will see your message. With Telegram, you can really reach the entire audience of the channel,” said Tetyana Nikolayenko, who, with Oksana Denisova, made the channel The Newsroom after working on The Insider.
“For the reader, it is a convenient platform: it is not overloaded with content, but it also has offline access. And for the editor, there is no need for comments. Everyone is fed up with this on Facebook and Twitter. And Telegram provides very high conversion rates for audience responses, conversion from views to page views and real life,” said Ivan Oberemko, who created the telegram channel from a popular show called #@) ₴?$ 0.
There is also the issue of Telegram encryption, which plays a major role in another Ukrayinska Pravda news channel called УП. off the record.
There, privileged information is delivered that comes from official sources in politics or business. “I know that sometimes journalists use secret chats on Telegram to correspond with politicians,” said Fedir Popadyuk. “It is very convenient because all the messages disappear and there are no traces left.”
Telegram lacks “real encryption”
Despite what the media and journalists in Ukraine may prefer, in the wake of the ongoing Russian invasion of the country, Moxie Marlinspike, the creator of the Signal messaging app, has spoken out against Telegram.
Through a series of tweets, Marlinspike wanted to remind Ukrainians that Telegram is not really an “encrypted” application in the way most people think: that no one can read your messages, not even the company that owns the platform. .
If an app is encrypted, the company that created it owns the keys and can unlock your messages at any time, and Telegram is such an app that is only “encrypted” by default, he explains. Fast Company.
This is the opposite of today’s truly secure apps like WhatsApp and Signal, which are “end-to-end encrypted.” This means that even the creators of those apps can’t access your messages because they don’t have the encryption keys (only the users do).
However, Telegram can say that it offers end-to-end encryption because it has a feature called Secret Chat that sends end-to-end encrypted messages. Although this feature must be manually enabled by users, and most probably do not activate it for each message sent.
According to Marlinspike, Telegram’s lack of real end-to-end encryption should make Ukrainians wary of the app. As he explained in a Twitter thread, “by default, [Telegram] it’s a cloud database with a plain text copy of every message everyone has ever sent/received.”
Every msg, photo, video, doc sent/received for the past 10 yrs; all contacts, group memberships, etc are all available to anyone w/ access to that DB
Many TG employees have families in Russia. If Russia doesn’t want to bother w/ hacking, they can leverage family safety for access.
— Moxie Marlinspike (@moxie) February 25, 2022
“Every message, photo, video, document sent/received over the last 10 years; all contacts, group memberships, etc. they are available to anyone with access to that database,” she added.
Marlinspike says this is a specific problem for Ukrainians because “many Telegram employees have family in Russia. If Russia doesn’t want to bother with hackers, they can take advantage of family security to gain access,” she wrote.
In any case, it is not the first time that someone points to Telegram and its encryption. Security researchers and privacy advocates have frequently referred to its privacy flaws and discourage journalists, activists, and whistleblowers from using the app.