Messenger service Telegram, which has “proved popular with far-right groups and people opposed to Covid-related restrictions,” has blocked 64 of its channels in Germany, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday. The move came after Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office sent shutdown requests to the messenger service, the paper said.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the channels affected included that of Attila Hildmann, a vegan celebrity chef who spreads “conspiracy theories” about the coronavirus to more than 100,000 followers on the messaging service.
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The Telegram app has become increasingly popular with activists and protesters, especially as platforms such as Facebook become more responsive to government pressure to crack down on those “spreading lies, threats or conspiracy theories.”
In Germany, Telegram has been blamed for fuelling an increasingly virulent subculture of “anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists” who exchange news about supposed dangers and arrange protests that have spilled over into violence.
Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser had said in remarks published last month that Germany could shut down Telegram and that it was discussing with its partners in the European Union how to regulate the messenger service.
After massive pressure from the federal government on Telegram, the company in Germany is taking action against “hatred and hate speech online” for the first time. According to information from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Telegram has blocked a total of 64 channels in the past few days. The closure was due to pressure from the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), it said.
Further details of the contacts between Telegram and the federal government became known on Friday. According to the information, there was a second working-level meeting between the government and Telegram on Thursday. The government and the company wanted to “continue to be in close contact,” it said after the talks. Company founder Pavel Durov already promised this in the first meeting he took part in himself.
“Telegram is used, among other things, by radical opponents of vaccination and lateral thinkers to network for protests against the corona measures. The Thuringian protection of the constitution had recently complained that a particularly large number of concrete overthrow fantasies were being spread there. Numerous right-wing extremists also used the platform. In December, Telegram users wrote in a chat about wanting to kill Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) because of his Corona policy,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote.
- Telegram is Said to Have Blocked 64 of Its Channels in Germany
- Telegram blocks 64 channels (German – English translation, Google)
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