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Telegram hits 100 million users as CEO voices support for Apple over FBI

Encrypted messaging app has come under criticism for enabling terrorists to securely communicate with one another

Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Telegram, the encrypted messaging app that launched in 2013, now has 100 million monthly active users. In a blog post announcing the milestone, the company said 350,000 new users are joining the service every day, and that 15 billion messages are sent on the app daily. Telegram founder Pavel Durov revealed the company's latest figures at a keynote speech at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday.

Telegram has seen sharp growth in recent months, adding 38 million monthly active users since May, though it still trails other messaging apps by a large margin. Earlier this month, Facebook-owned WhatsApp reached the 1 billion monthly active user mark, while Facebook Messenger reached 800 million monthly active users in January.

"I side with Tim Cook."

Telegram's focus has long been on privacy, and its founders have said they have little interest in profit. The app uses end-to-end encryption to protect communications from eavesdroppers, though it has come under criticism from those who say the service has enabled terrorists to securely communicate with one another. Although Telegram has remained committed to its privacy controls, the company has begun cracking down on public channels used to promote pornography or terrorist-related material.

Prior to creating Telegram with his brother, Durov founded VKontakte (VK), Russia's most popular social network. An outspoken libertarian and privacy advocate, Durov was forced out of VK in 2014 following a takeover staged by oligarchs loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. When he was in control of the company, Durov flouted government requests to shut down pages operated by anti-Putin activists. In 2013, he offered to hire Edward Snowden after the former NSA contractor leaked documents detailing expansive government surveillance in the US. It should therefore come as no surprise that the 31-year-old supports Apple in its ongoing battle over encryption with the FBI.

"I side with Tim Cook," Durov told The Financial Times. "Society in each country has to decide whether they want to make this trade-off, between privacy and what is perceived as high security and lower risk of terrorism."