Witch Hunt: Telegram Messenger Becomes New Target Of Big Tech

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A nonprofit group the Coalition for a Safer Web has sued Apple in an attempt to force it to remove Telegram from its app store, just as it has done against alt-tech social network Parler, The Washington Post reported. The Coalition claimed its intention to suit Google too. Parler and Telegram were accused of failing to crack down on extremist conversation amid the January 6 U.S. Capitol assault. However, Apple is not in a hurry to take action against Telegram.

Director of the Coalition Mark Ginsberg says he has the right to file a lawsuit against Apple requiring the company to comply with a terms of service prohibiting hate speech and incitement to violence in apps hosted on the App Store. The lawsuit also alleges emotional distress through negligence and a violation of the California business code.

“This is a lawsuit seeking damages and injunctive relief against Defendant Apple, Inc. for allowing Telegram to be made available through Apple’s App Store despite Apple’s knowledge that Telegram is being used to intimidate, threaten, and coerce members of the public.”

After the Washington Capitol assault a large campaign against independent networks began. Parler was removed from the stores both by Apple and Google, Amazon has also suspended its support. Even US President Donald Trump and thousands of his supporters were struck by the wave of censorship.

A legal claim by a nonprofit organization may serve as a necessary pretext to remove Telegram from the App Store with minor damage for Google.

Under the pretext of fighting extremist content on social media, the Big Tech and the neo-liberal establishment seek to undermine any opportunity to counter their dominance on social media. The democratic principle of freedom of speech is no longer their value.

However, Apple is yet to comment on this issue.

Parler was not large enough, and its removal poses small risks to Apple, Google or Amazon. Initially, the independent network was largely positioned as a platform popular among conservatives or far-right extremists.

Parler has about 10 million users, while Telegram surpassed 500 million monthly active users, and after a surge in censorship amid the chaos in the United States, its popularity has increased tenfold, to millions of new users per day.

Following the disablement of President’s accounts on mainstream platforms, the Big Tech has already lost a significant part of its users. The market also reacted to censorship – Twitter shares fell 7% after the announcement of the disablement of Trump’s account.

Moreover, Telegram has already demonstrated that it can effectively counter the spread of extremist propaganda on its platform. In 2015, about 30-40 Islamic State channels were reportedly running on the platform, issuing press releases and recruiting new members. According to TJournal, Apple also demanded to restrict access to such channels, threatening to remove Telegram from the App Store.

Telegram itself reacted immediately and announced the blocking of 78 ISIS-linked channels:

“We were concerned to learn that public Telegram channels are being used by ISIS to spread propaganda. We carefully considered the received reports and took the necessary measures to block the channels, ”the Telegram said in a message.

Modern social networks suffer from a lack of consensus between networks regulations and an acute lack of a unified transparent standard of moderation that will allow observing the principles of free speech, but at the same time ensure the safety of users and prevent the spread of all kinds of malicious content.

At the same time, the radical measures taken by the Big Tech testify to their goals to fight not the spread of extremist propaganda, but any form of dissent and freedom of speech, in order to strengthen its control over public opinion. The question whether they will succeed or not remains open. Today, such their policy only leads to their own weakening and strengthening of independent social networks.

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