Telegram founder tells Tucker FBI allegedly wanted ‘back door’ for US agencies

Pavel Durov, the creator of the social media app Telegram, revealed that the FBI began pressuring him when he came to the United States.

“We got too much attention from the the FBI, the security agencies, wherever we came to the U.S.,” he told Tucker Carlson in an interview. “So to give you an example, last time I was in the U.S., I brought an engineer that is working for Telegram, and there was an attempt to secretly hire my engineer behind my back by cyber security officers or agents.”

“They were curious to learn which open-source libraries are integrated to the Telegram’s app, you know, on the client’s side. And they were trying to persuade him to use certain open-source tools that he would then integrate into the Telegram’s code that, in my understanding, would serve as backdoors,” Durov added.

Watch the whole interview below:

Durov’s admission prompted Carlson to ask him whether these backdoors would allow the U.S. government to spy on people who use the platform.

He replied in the affirmative.

“The U.S. government or maybe any other government, because a back door is a back door, regardless of who is using it,” he said.

“You’re confident that happened?” Carlson then asked.

“There is no reason for my engineer to make up the stories,” Durov responded before going on to detail more examples of the FBI trying to pressure him and his company.

“I personally experienced similar pressure in the U.S.,”  he said. “Whenever I would go to the U.S., I would have two FBI agents greeting me at the airport asking questions. One time, I was having my breakfast like 9:00 a.m., and the FBI showed up my house that I was renting, and that was quite surprising, and I thought you know we’re getting too much attention here,” he said.

“They were interested to learn more about Telegram. They knew I left Russia. They knew what we were doing, but they wanted details, and my understanding is that they wanted to establish a relationship to in a way control Telegram better. I understand 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. We want to be focused on what we do, not on government relations,” he added.

Tired of the BS, Durov eventually moved Telegram’s headquarters to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where, he claims, the government has acted a lot less shady.

“The ease of doing business here is so high,” he said. “For example, you can hire people from anywhere in the world as long as you’re paying them a good salary. It’s very different if you try to do that in Europe. In some other countries, it’s very different from them. Second, it’s very tax efficient. Third, the infrastructure is great. You get a lot for the minimum amount of taxes you’re paying: the roads, the airports, the hotels.”

“But I think, more importantly, is that it’s a neutral place. It’s a neutral country. It’s a small country that wants to be friends with everybody. It’s not aligned geopolitically with any of the big superpowers. And I think it’s the best place for a neutral platform like ours to be in if we want to make sure we can defend our users’ privacy and freedom of speech,” he added.

Carlson then asked him whether the U.A.E. has ever tried to pressure him the way the United States government did. He said no.

“Zero,” Durov said. “That’s the best part. For all the seven years we’ve been here, there’s been zero pressure coming from the U.A.E. towards Telegram. They’ve been very supportive, very helpful, and it’s a big contrast from, you know, whatever we’ve experienced before.”

That said, the U.S. reportedly isn’t the only government that’s ever tried to pressure Telegram.

“Telegram is a large platform,” he said. “We are popular in many, many countries, and we’ve been receiving a lot of requests, demands. Some of them were legit, like if there was a group of people who were promoting violence, there was some terrorist activity that was, you know, spreading violence in some parts of the world. But in some other cases, we thought it would be crossing the line.”

Vivek Saxena

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