Telegram, the popular instant messaging service that offers end-to-end encryption, announced on Wednesday that they have “blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages.”
The company introduced channels in September 2015, and presented it as a tool for broadcasting messages to large (unlimited) audiences. “They can have an unlimited number of members, they can be public with a permanent URL and each post in a channel has its own view counter,” the service explained. Users can post to channels anonymously.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), “terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have already created several channels on Telegram for sharing their content with thousands of followers.”
“The new service offered by Telegram constitutes a step up from the standard one-on-one messaging function, and there seems to be no way to censor it,” wrote M. Khayat, a research fellow at MEMRI. “Content shared on Telegram channels goes beyond the mere reposting of jihadi groups’ propaganda, and includes tutorials on manufacturing weapons and launching cyberattacks, calls for targeted killing and lone-wolf attacks, and more.”
But, apparently, there is something Telegram can do – and they did.
“We were disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda,” the company wrote on their own News channel (viewable only if you use Telegram), and encouraged users to report channels, sticker sets and bots that are illegal.
The company won’t be doing anything to check and block Telegram chats and group chats that are reported, as they are “private amongst their participants.” Group chats can have up to 200 participants, who can exchange messages, videos, documents, and photos.
“While we do block terrorist (e.g. ISIS-related) bots and channels, we will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions,” the company finally added.