The presidential administration plans to use encrypted and anonymous Telegram channels to collect and monitor voter sentiment in the Russian regions, RBC daily reported on October 10 citing the draft of the project developed by a third-party contractor.
Kremlin would turn Telegram from foe to friend, as previously the privacy-minded brainchild of exiled Russian tech guru Evgeny Durov clashed with Russian watchdogs over sharing content.
The service has been popular with Russians, and especially Duma deputies, as its encryption ensures not even the FSB can read your messages.
Mobilising rather than resisting digital innovations seems to become Kremlin's strategy, as seen in the latest blockchain craze welcomed by officials and Vladimir Putin's call to make the digital technologies a priority.
Reportedly about 100 anonymous Telegram channels would be launched in Russian largest cities, including St Petersburg, Nizny Novgorod, Novosibirks, Krasnodar, among many others.
The main purpose of the channels targeting voters aged 20 to 50 years and employing a few staffers each will be to diffuse content and monitor voter sentiment ahead of the presidential election in spring 2018.
Political observers surveyed by RBC confirmed that Telegram has become one of the instruments of political communication, filling the void of informal information exchange with the public in the sea of state-controlled top-bottom mass media.
The Telegram messenger only gained in popularity among active Russians after problems with Roskomnadzor watchdog, RBC claims. News that appears on mainstream state-controlled media often first gets leaked to Telegram channels.
The bureaucrats followed suite. RBC surveyed federal officials that admitted that they are subscribed to main federal political Telegram channels with trolling names such as Stalin Gulag (13,000 subscribers), The Father Gas (2,000), Kremlin Mamkoved (17,000), Nezygar (75,000), Guardsman (27,000), and others. Regional channels with less subscribers are also popular.