By Nina Mulamba
The messaging app Telegram has released a statement that it has blocked 78 ISIS-related channels that the terrorist group used to spread propaganda and communicate with other members.
Owing to recent terror attacks in Paris, Telegram has come under sharp scrutiny as ISIS and other terror groups have been using its channel to recruit members as well as spread their anti-west and war propaganda messages. ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has been using the app as a means of distributing its propaganda material since Telegram introduced a feature allowing users to broadcast messages to an unlimited number of subscribers.
In a tweet, Telegram says it has shut down 78 ISIS-related channels, used to spread propaganda in over 12 languages.
“We were disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda,” the statement read, “As a result, this week alone we blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages.”
According to the Guardian, some of the channels had amassed over 10,000 members. Other Telegram features exploited by users included the secret chat feature, which according to the BBC has been used to plan attacks. In September this year, ISIS asked people to get in touch using the app with regards to payment of ransom for hostages held by the group.
Despite blocking the channels, many more are still in existence on the app. Many channels posted Telegram’s statement, followed by links to other propaganda channels that are still active.
Telegram later released another statement that concluded:
Please note that this does not apply to local restrictions on freedom of speech. For example, if criticizing the government is illegal in a country, Telegram won’t be a part of such politically motivated censorship. This goes against our founders’ principles. While we do block terrorist (e.g. ISIS-related) bots and channels, we will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions.
One major ISIS user on Telegram declared that “the war on Telegram has started,” according to Charlie Winter, an expert on ISIS propaganda.
The app’s creators, the Russian brothers who founded the social network VKontakte, had previously acknowledged that terrorists use the app and said that privacy takes precedent over preventing terrorism.
Telegram is known for offering a secure messaging platform which has made it popular with terror. Telegram has also asked the public to send reports on any ISIS-related channels they want blocked via firstname.lastname@example.org.