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Telegram founder confirms it’s now actively censoring ISIS channels

Will ISIS now abandon Telegram, or is this the start of a new endless game of cat and mouse?


Kevin Collier


Posted on Nov 18, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:22 pm CDT

Days after being crowned the Islamic State’s favorite new messaging app, Berlin-based Telegram has announced that it’s actively deleting the terrorist group’s content.

In a message posted on its own service, Telegram noted that “We were disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda,” and added that it had killed 78 channels—essentially, accounts—spreading in 12 different languages. The Daily Dot noted that ISIS’s major English-language Telegram channel, which disseminated news, a magazine, pictures, and something like tourist photos for the group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria, became unusable sometime in the late morning or early afternoon on Wednesday.

But ISIS’s use of social media is a seemingly never-ending game of whack-a-mole. On Twitter, members and supporters create new accounts, but are frequently discovered by various hacktivist groups, who quickly report them for abuse—forcing a new round of accounts. On a larger scale, ISIS frequently jumps around favorite online tools, with Telegram being just the most recent.

Though it took a few days before Telegram began censoring such content, it now appears to be actively doing so. After those accounts were deleted, ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts began posting new channels to use—but then Telegram took at least some of those offline, too.

Telegram does promote itself as a service that can make it easy to use encrypted communications, though security researchers have resoundingly condemned its encryption strength.

Correction: Telegram is based in Berlin.

Update 3:24pm CT, Nov. 18: Telegram confirms it has tried to actively censor more than 100 ISIS channels.

“Since we announced the news we received dozens of more reports and are blocking confirmed ISIS public channels in real time,” Telgram co-founder Pavel Durov told the Daily Dot. 

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Nov 18, 2015, 5:32 pm CST