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Telegram’s Features Position Social Messaging App as Disinformation Vehicle

March 7th, 2022 11:40

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…

Read the rest here.

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.