Telegram has become an increasingly popular destination for Russian civilians and Russian-language news channels to communicate and spread information about the war. And now, the platform is a more popular messaging service than WhatsApp, according to Russian telecom operator Megafon.
The organization found that Telegram's share of mobile internet traffic in Russia rose to 63% in the first two weeks of March, up from 48% in the first couple weeks of February. On the other hand, Meta-owned WhatsApp's share of traffic fell to 32% from 48% last month. Megafon also found that the average Telegram user in the country is consuming more data a day than a WhatsApp user.
Megafon linked Telegram's rising popularity to restrictions on other platforms. Facebook and Instagram are currently banned in Russia, although WhatsApp is still operational. But Meta and Russia are not on good terms — especially after Russia labeled the company an "extremist" organization — so perhaps WhatsApp users can read the writing on the wall.
"The popularity of the service has grown against the backdrop of restrictions on access to other messengers and social networks," Megafon said in a statement.
Megafon added that the service began "actively growing" on Feb. 24, the day Russia sent troops into Ukraine.
Unlike Meta's platforms, Telegram is helping both the Kremlin and Russian civilians communicate. Russian-language news, politics and commentary channels, news organizations including The Washington Post and The New York Times and pro-Kremlin channels are all using the platform. Telegram has said it isn't even sure why it hasn't been blocked, and it doesn't know if Russia intends to ban the app down the line.
Telegram isn't the only platform being used by Russian civilians. Clubhouse has also grown as a popular place for Russians to discuss and debate the war and get in touch with the Western world.