A few days ago, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser discussed a possible “switching off” of Telegram. Telegram is very popular among right-wingers in particular, and there are also studies on this – and this part of Telegram is what it’s all about. About hate comments, threats or groups in which fake vaccination certificates are offered. Telegram has so far refused to delete or even to respond to requests from the German authorities. That’s why this initiative by the BKA. There was also talk of a real name requirement for Telegram.
Expert: The fact that you can’t get to Telegram is basically the essence of the brand
Nancy Faeser says that “switching off” would be legally possible, but she is primarily concerned with publicity. “Telegram plays a very positive role for members of the opposition in other countries around the world, and you always have to keep that in mind when making such a decision,” she said on Deutschlandfunk. But we couldn’t let a messenger service spread hate and hate speech, “calling for demonstrations, torchlight processions against local politicians, against mayors, against members of the state parliament, against female prime ministers”.
The fact that you can’t get to Telegram is the core of the platform’s brand, explains Christian Schwieter, who has investigated for the non-profit organization ISD, among other things, how rights and conspiracy ideologists build their infrastructure on Telegram. The platform was founded by two Russian brothers who wanted to enable actions critical of the government. Company headquarters is currently in Dubai. A big problem is that Telegram has no contact person in Germany. It should actually have according to the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) – just like, for example, a function with which you can report content. But there is neither.
One lever is international pressure: Telegram processes and deletes inquiries from Europol, for example about IS content. Theoretically, Dubai could also help, but only if there are similar crimes reported in Dubai. It’s all very complicated.
More social than technical issue
The fact that Telegram is used so extensively by Reich citizens and conspiracy ideologues is also due to the way the service works, says Pia Lamberty. The social psychologist, researches conspiracy ideologies and is part of the management of the NGO CeMAS. For example, very large groups are possible and certain tools are helpful for moderation. She is critical of the blocking of Telegram, as is Christian Schwieter. Because Telegram is important for opposition members in other countries – that could be a bad example. For this reason, the two are also against a real name requirement.
Lamberty says politicians have overslept the problem a bit and now don’t necessarily have the best solutions ready. Overall, it is ultimately more of a social than a technical issue. “I would wish that there would be more exchange with organizations that deal with hate and hate speech online, but also with organizations that have questions about civil rights on the screen, that work on it.”
Audio: Ramona Westhof in conversation with Nicole Dittmer
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