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Rule of LawGermany

German police pressure Telegram to delete far-right content

January 17, 2022

Telegram has become the messenger app of choice for many on the far-right, apparently because of its lax enforcement of laws regulating extremist content. Police say they plan to pressure Telegram to crack down.

Telegram logo displayed on a phone screen and binary code displayed on a laptop screen
Telegram has ignored a large share of requests from German police to take down illegal far-right contentImage: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Germany's Federal Criminal Police (BKA) accused the messenger app Telegram of failing to respond to requests to delete far-right content, according to a report by the German newspaper Die Welt on Monday.

A police official said Telegram had hardly cooperated with police requests and advocated flooding the provider with removal or data requests as a means to ramp up the pressure.

The Telegram company, which operates primarily out of Dubai but has its legal headquarters in London, "largely does not comply with requests to delete right-wing extremist content," the BKA said.

Telegram – the alternative to WhatsApp

Uneven enforcement of rules

Telegram has tended to delete propaganda related to Islamist terror groups such as the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda, often without request.

But, when it comes to right-wing and conspiracy theorist content in Germany, such as QAnon groups, "it does not appear to be the case that Telegram intervenes and blocks groups or channels of this kind of its own accord," the BKA said.

Federal police are now planning to report cases of right-wing extremist content on Telegram more consistently. It is hoped that this would make the problem more obvious and increase pressure on the app to cooperate.

According to Germany's Network Enforcement Act, it is the obligation of operators such as Telegram to remove illegal content, something that the company often fails to do, authorities claim. 

Space for far-right radicalization

Telegram is the social media platform of choice for many right-wing extremist and neo-Nazi users, especially those whose accounts on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have already been deleted.

Shift - Living in the Digital Age

Germany's police consider Telegram a space for radicalization and mobilization among the followers of people pushing conspiracy theories and far-right rhetoric.

Tackling the problem has been made more difficult by the lack of a contact person at Telegram meaning most police requests go unanswered.

The new interior minister, Nancy Faeser, from the Social Democrats, has recently brought up the possibility of banning Telegram in Germany because of the ongoing problem of far-right content.

ab/wmr (dpa, AFP)