US media is reporting on some of the unique aspects of Telegram, the social messaging app increasingly being used for influence purposes. According to an NBC news report:
In addition to politicians, the [Security Service of Ukraine] is just one of the many official Ukrainian government channels to rely on Telegram in recent weeks as a way to disseminate information. The app’s popularity in the region and its flexibility — it’s both a messaging app and a way to broadcast messages to an audience — have made it a crucial tool amid an ongoing battle to win the public information war against Russia. Telegram has been popular for years in Eastern Europe and Russia, and last year reached a landmark 1 billion downloads. Since its launch, Telegram has marketed itself as a bastion of free speech, a message that has resonated with users who live in countries with heavy online censorship, but it has also drawn extremist organizations ranging from the Islamic State terrorist group to Jan. 6 insurrectionists. That Telegram very rarely removes or blocks content — whether for being offensive, explicit or intentionally designed to mislead people — is by design. Founded by Pavel Durov, who was born in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and now lives in Dubai, it was conceived explicitly as a way for internet users to get around government censorship and repression…
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The NBC report goes on to detail what it calls the “unresponsiveness” of Telegram:
That kind of unresponsiveness has led Telegram to become a breeding ground for disinformation. While American social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter now work to identify and remove government-run propaganda campaigns, Telegram is far less proactive, and often leaves up the same accounts that those other companies take down.
The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported as early as October 2021 that Russian state media outlets Sputnik and RT were expanding their social media presence to Telegram. Earlier this week, we reported that “unattributed pro-Kremlin Telegram channels” were one of the means by which Russia was sidestepping the closures and other actions directed against Russian-backed media outlets in the West.