January 26, 2021

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Telegram blocks channels promoting hate as mass exodus from WhatsApp continue

3 min read

Millions of people created Telegram accounts this week after WhatsApp’s controversial terms of service made headlines across the world. In fact, Telegram reported a boost of 25 million new users signing up within 72 hours.

However, Telegram is realising that with an influx of new users come an influx of trouble as well. Telegram spokesperson Mike Ravdonikas confirmed to Tech Crunch that “dozens of public channels” have been blocked.

Why did Telegram block certain channels?

Ravdonikas explained that many of extremist channels contained “calls to violence” and hate speech.

“Our Terms of Service expressly forbid public calls to violence, In the past 24 hours we have blocked dozens of public channels that published calls to violence for thousands of subscribers”.

One of those channels brandished Nazi flags and had more than 10 000 participants. Some of the channels had names such as HateLab, Terrorwave, The Snake Pit, Western Masculine, and RighWing Renegade.

Ravdonikas added that Telegram will be examing “all incoming reports” to determine whether the takedowns relate to the situation that unfolded in the U.S when seditionists stormed the Capitol.

Also read: WhatsApp privacy policy update: User data will be shared with Facebook

Taking down ‘Terrorgram’

Some of the groups mobilised against activist Gwen Snyder, who according to Tech Crunch “marshalled Twitter users in a ‘mass-reporting campaign’ following the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol”. Snyder tweeted:

“This is huge: Less than 24 hours after we started calling out Telegram for allowing Nazi terrorists to publicly try and (further) radicalize MAGA folks looking for a new post-Parler home, they felt the pressure and shut down notorious Terrorgram channel HateLab.”

Snyder told Tech Crunch that she’d been “tracking these Nazi Terrorgram channels [on the Telegram platform] and reporting horrendous, explicit calls to racist violence and insurrection, and Telegram did nothing”.

Her call to action got Telegram’s attention. Within 48 hours, most of the channels were taken down. However, she also landed on the radar of the hatemongering networks, who now blame Snyder for the takedowns.

Church Blog

Telegram trying to ‘dodge future accountability’

Snyder has been receiving threats following the takedowns. Screengrabs shared online show users calling for “4chan to [expletive] Gwen over”, and worse. Snyder told Tech Crunch:

“My address is all over those channels with people saying I should be shot and raped for this, and they only have to convince one person”.

Snyder said on Twitter that they [Telegram] “are hoping they can dodge future accountability by responding to the pressure with a one-time, half-hearted purge”.

She added in another tweet that it’s “beyond time for the company to act responsibly here”.

Also read: Telegram and Signal: Why WhatsApp users are choosing these apps