Telegram blocks Hamas channels on Android following Google pressure

After Google warned the instant messaging service against providing a platform to the channels of the murderous terrorist organization from Gaza, Pavel Durov's instant messaging application blocked several of them, including the official channel of the organization's military arm. The channels are still available on the iPhone and computer versions of Telegram

Telegram has blocked Hamas channels in the Android version of its instant messaging service. The decision came two and a half weeks after the start of the war and against the background of considerable international pressure on social media platforms to limit or completely block the propaganda activity of the murderous terrorist organization. Apparently, this is not a change in the application's permissive content policy, but rather a surrender to the pressure exerted on it by Google.
Since the beginning of the war, Telegram has been used by Hamas as a central platform for spreading its propaganda. This, against the background of the company's policy that almost completely avoids content censorship, even in extreme cases when it comes to a murderous terrorist organization, comparable in its cruelty to the Nazis. Experts told the New York Times last week that since the outbreak of the war, Telegram has become the most prominent emanation point for pro-Hamas messages. Among other things, it hosts an official channel of the military arm of the organization whose number of followers has increased 3 times since the outbreak of the conflict.
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(Photo: AP)
Last week, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said that the platform has no intention of blocking Hamas activity in a sweeping manner. “Earlier this week, Hamas used Telegram to warn civilians in Ashkelon to leave the area ahead of their missile strikes. Would shutting down their channel help save lives — or would it endanger more lives?" he wrote, although it is clear that the purpose of Hamas's message was not to save lives but to sow anxiety and panic through Telegram.
Durov further claimed that since Telegram users are only exposed to content on the channels they have joined and not through an algorithmic feed, it is impossible to use the application for a significant amplification of propaganda. This claim ignores the fact that Telegram serves as a central distribution center for information, when followers of the Hamas channel are exposed to content that they would not necessarily reach in any other way and that they take and promote it on other channels and platforms.
However, as mentioned, Telegram was now forced to make a partial U-turn and blocked some Hamas channels for Android users, including the official channel of its military arm with more than 768,000 followers and another channel with close to 170,000 followers. "Some of the channels you are following may stop being accessible in your version of Telegram because of Google Play’s guidelines," reads the message shown to users. Telegram offers to install the application directly from the company's website, instead of Google Play, to access the blocked channels. At the same time, the channels are still available on the iPhone and computer versions of Telegram.
The fact that the blocking was implemented only on Android indicates that it is not a matter of Telegram's choice, but of a demand by Google that probably threatened the company with removal from the Play Store if the official accounts of Hamas were not blocked. Although it was appropriate for Telegram to change its dangerous policy and block Hamas completely by choice, this is still a positive step that will limit the circulation of Hamas's messages.