Germany Might Shut Down Free Speech Platform Telegram

(FiveNation.com)- On Wednesday, Germany’s Minister of the Interior warned that if the messaging app Telegram continues to violate German law, it would be shut down within Germany.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told Die Zeit weekly that while a shutdown would be a grave last resort, the German government will not rule it out.

Telegram has been a popular messaging app for “far-right” groups and those opposing Germany’s draconian COVID restrictions. And for months, Germany has been waging a battle against the messaging service, demanding Telegram crack down on “extremist” content.

The targeting of Telegram reached a fever pitch in Germany in December after several anti-vaxxers were arrested in Dresden for allegedly plotting on Telegram to kill the governor of Saxony. After the arrests, politicians demanded Telegram be deemed a social media network rather than a messaging service, requiring it to abide by new rules governing content deemed “extremist” or criminal.

Beginning next month, social media platforms operating in Germany will be required by law to report unlawful content to authorities. Instant-messaging services are currently exempt from the law, an exemption many in the German government view as a loophole that must be closed.

Last month, Germany’s minister of justice spoke out in favor of EU action against the Telegram.

Speaking to German media in December, Minister Marco Buschmann argued that an EU-wide effort would send a stronger message to Telegram than having each country do it on its own.

Buschmann told reporters that even if the EU was successful in bringing Telegram to heel, it wasn’t enough to end the problem of online “hate speech” and “extremism” since “radicals will find new ways and platforms.”

Interior Minister Faeser, frustrated that German officials have had no response from Telegram regarding their concerns, said in December that Telegram’s disregard would not be tolerated by Berlin, hence her recent threats to shut the app down.

Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, made it the instant-messaging app’s policy not to cooperate with authorities in any country. In 2017, Durov refused to grant Russian security services access to communications between terror suspects. In response, Russia banned the service in 2018. However, the ban was unenforceable and Russia eventually lifted it in June 2020.