Telegram is warned app ‘nurtures subculture deifying terrorists’

Hope not Hate urges messaging app to act on privacy policy that ‘facilitates’ murderous content

MPs, leaders of faith communities, and groups involved in countering hate have sent a letter to Telegram urging it to take action as it emerged as an “app of choice” for racists and violent extremists.

An image was projected on to Telegram’s offices in London this week by the campaign group Hope not Hate, which has organised the letter, in a move to shame the company.

A report this week found that the messaging app had emerged as a central hub for several conspiracy movements espousing antisemitic tropes and memes, including QAnon, as well as others on the extreme right promoting violence.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope not Hate, said: “Time and time again Telegram has failed to take action in tackling the vile and dangerous content hosted on its platform. Our research has shown that the messaging app has become a cesspit of antisemitic content, with minimal moderation or action from Telegram itself to prevent this endless spread of hatred.”

The letter, which was signed by president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, several MPs and others working against anti-Muslim hatred, stated: “The platform has facilitated and nurtured a subculture that cheerleads for and deifies terrorists, and regards mass murder not only as a means to revolution and retribution but as a form of entertainment – all in the name of privacy.”

Members of the public are also being urged to sign the letter online as part of a petition urging the company to take serious action against terrorist content.

Signatories include the Labour MPs Stephanie Peacock, Debbie Abrahams and Barbara Keeley, the Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, the Green MP Caroline Lucas and Lisa Cameron, an SNP MP and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. Mark Gardner, the chief executive of the Community Security Trust, and Akeela Ahmed, chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, also signed.

The report published this week by Hope not Hate and other anti-racism foundations says a new generation of users of “younger” social media platforms are being introduced to antisemitic ideas they would be unlikely to encounter elsewhere.

Researchers found that on Telegram, a platform favoured by many activist groups and others, a channel promoting the New World Order conspiracy theory as well as Holocaust denial and white nationalist propaganda had gained 90,000 extra followers since starting up in February 2021.

The risk of radicalisation has grown on some platforms after sweeping bans on larger, more mainstream platforms encouraged many conspiratorial networks to migrate to often largely unmoderated alternatives such as Telegram, the report says.

The app was founded in 2013 by Pavel Durov, a Russian-born tech billionaire who built his reputation on creating the unhackable messaging app. “I think that privacy, ultimately, and our right for privacy, is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism,” he said in 2015 at an event organised by TechCrunch.

A recent example of an extremist using Telegram was Dean Morrice, the neo-Nazi former Ukip member jailed for 18 years after posting online violent, racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic propaganda, and collecting the means for making bombs.

Morrice ran a Telegram channel that prosecutors said had “unapologetically, unambiguously, pumped out” neo-Nazi propaganda which encouraged the killing of people of colour and Jewish people, Kingston crown court was told in June.

Telegram did not respond to a request for comment.


Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

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