Telegram is an encrypted messaging service. It uses the domain name t.me for users to create short links to their profiles so that you can share your telegram link without having to give anyone your mobile phone number.
So a user whose username (handle) is john would be reachable via https://t.me/john and so on.
At some point in the last 24 hours the French government seems to have ordered several of the country’s largest ISPs to block access to t.me and to force users to be redirected to a government controlled lander.
What that means is that the ISPs’ resolvers injected false A records for the domain t.me in their responses so that when a user tried to access t.me they’d be sent to a completely different website than the one they’d requested. It’s basically a state sanctioned man in the middle attack, which is a fairly horrific abuse of power.
This is the lander *some* users are being greeted with when they try to access t.me:
The message states “you’ve been redirected to this page on the French Interior Ministry as you tried to access a website that hosts child porn images”
While it’s possible that a telegram user has shared CSAM imagery and that it was reported to the authorities the French “solution” seems to be to force the largest ISPs to accuse their entire customer base of being paedophiles.
What’s decidedly odd about how the French government is doing this is that they appear to be only forcing *some* of the ISPs to do this and instead of simply blocking the domain’s resolution, which wouldn’t be ideal, they’re actually obliging the ISP to lie to the user via their resolvers. Of course it’s easy enough to circumvent – if you switch to a 3rd party DNS resolver or use a VPN you’ll be able to get around it. But this is a serous case of over blocking.
Stéphane Bortzmeyer provides a more detailed technical explanation (in French) over on his blog.