Germany’s minister of justice has spoken in favor of common European action against Telegram over the spread of extremist content on the instant-messaging service.
Speaking to German media, Marco Buschmann argued that a concerted EU-wide effort would “Make a greater impression” on Telegram, as opposed to “Each country tries to achieve this on its own.” The minister, who was sworn in earlier this month, went on to say that it was in Telegram’s own best interest to have uninterrupted access to the European market now that the service has turned to ads in a bid to monetize the platform’s popularity.
Buschmann, however, warned that even if the EU succeeded in bringing Telegram to heel, that alone would not end the problem of hate speech and extremism online, as “Radicals will seek new avenues and platforms.”
Telegram debate intensified in Germany after several anti-vaxxers, including radicals, were detained in Dresden. They are accused of plotting to take down the governor in Saxony. Telegram was being viewed as more than just a message service. It should also be considered a social media platform. Telegram would need to follow stricter regulations regarding criminal or extremist content.
German law requires social media platforms that use the internet to share illegal material to be reported to authorities starting February 20, 2022. However, instant messaging is exempted by German law, which many ministers of the interior in Germany consider an issue.
The push has been backed by Minister of Justice Buschmann, who argued that there could be no place for a “blanket exemption for messengers.” He went on to say that the creation of a common European approach would be one of the biggest “Politics” faced by the EU.
All attempts by German officials to contact Telegram have so far been unsuccessful. The country’s new minister of the interior, Nancy Faeser, warned that the government in Berlin is “We won’t tolerate it.”
Telegram has been criticized by German Governors and Regional Interior Ministers. Saxony state Governor Michael Kretschmer, whom the anti-vaxxers had allegedly been planning to kill, charged that “The operators cannot continue to watch from Dubai, ignoring the death threats being made on their network.” The interior minister in the same region lamented recently that “This anonymity encourages radicalization online.”
These concerns were echoed by the minister of the interior in the state of Thuringia, who described Telegram as a “Combustive agent to radicalize, in particular for anti-lockdown demonstrations.” He warned that the “There is a real danger that online hatred could lead to violence.”
The German authorities have not yet provided any details on how they can rein in this disobedient message network.
Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, made it the messenger’s policy not to cooperate with authorities in any country. In 2017, Durov refused Russian security service access to communication between terrorist suspects. The Russian authorities banned this service in the next year. The ban was not easy to enforce and was eventually lifted in June 2020.