The big provider of encrypted messaging apps, Telegram, has expressed support for the mass protests in Belarus against the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko.
On August 25, Telegram introduced a new animated emoji to replace the national flag of Belarus with the white, red and white flag. Unlike the official red and green flag of Belarus, the white, red and white flag is used as a symbol of opposition to the Lukashenko regime.
With the new feature, the emoji of the Belarusian national flag will automatically convert to the moving opposition flag whenever a single symbol is entered in the message.
The last gesture of the cable in support of the opposition occurred amid mass protests against Lukashenko. Demonstrations erupted in the wake of the country’s controversial presidential election on August 9, prompting Lukashenko to run for a sixth term with nearly 80% of the vote. The European Union then rejected the election results, and Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that the vote was “neither free nor fair”.
In addition to supporting the ongoing protests in Belarus, Telegram has emerged as one of the main sources of information amid the protests. On August 9, Belarus experienced major internet outages, so the country of about 9.5 million people did not have adequate internet access by early August 12. The failures were later linked to the government, but Lukashenko claimed that they were organized abroad.
During the blackout, Telegram was the only way to connect to the Internet, a local source told Cointelegraph. This was apparently a result of Telegram’s anti-censorship tools. On August 10, Telegram CEO Pavel Dorov announced that despite the service interruption, the app will still be available for most users in Belarus.
Telegram is well-known for supporting opposition players and political activists. Earlier this year, Durov donated 10 bitcoins (BTC) to a charitable project in Russia with the support of activist Yegor Zhukov. The activist is widely known as a symbol of the anti-Kremlin protests.
Meanwhile, the situation in Russian politics also worsened when local opposition leader Alexei Navalny was allegedly poisoned on 20 August. With Navalny falling into a coma, it appears that Russian authorities have yet to initiate a criminal investigation.