Germany Wants to Crack Down on Telegram

( This week, Germany’s minister of justice spoke out in favor of EU action against the messaging app Telegram, ostensibly over the spread of “extremist” content.

Speaking to German media, Minister Marco Buschmann argued that an EU-wide effort would send a stronger message to Telegram than having each country do it on its own. Buschmann said now that Telegram is using ads to monetize the platform, it was in the instant-messaging service’s best interest to have uninterrupted access to the EU market

Buschmann told reporters that even if the EU was successful in bringing Telegram to heel, it wasn’t enough to end the problem of online “hate speech” and “extremism” since “radicals will find new ways and platforms.”

The targeting of Telegram reached a fever pitch in Germany earlier this month after several anti-vaxxers were arrested in Dresden for allegedly plotting on Telegram to kill the governor of Saxony. After the arrests, politicians demanded Telegram be deemed a social media network rather than a messaging service. This way, Telegram would be required to abide by new rules governing content deemed “extremist” or criminal.

Beginning in February 2022, social media platforms operating in Germany will be required by law to report unlawful content to authorities. Instant-messaging services are currently exempt from the law, an exemption many regional interior ministers in Germany view as a loophole that must be closed.

So far, German officials have had no response from Telegram regarding their concerns. The country’s new minister of the interior, Nancy Faeser warned that this lack of response will not be tolerated by Berlin.

However, Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, made it the instant-messaging app’s policy not to cooperate with authorities in any country. In 2017, Durov refused to grant Russian security services access to communications between terror suspects. In response, Russia banned the service in 2018. However, the ban was unenforceable and Russia eventually lifted it in June 2020.

Some suspect that the timing of this targeting of Telegram may have more to do with the current anti-COVID protests throughout Europe. Protesters have been using the app as a crowd-sourcing platform to fight back against government-imposed COVID restrictions.