Germany wants to punish operators of the Telegram messenger app

BERLIN – The German authorities have initiated proceedings against Telegram, in which the operators of the messenger app could be fined for failing to comply with laws that oblige social media sites to monitor the actions of their users.

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported at the weekend that, according to official information, the use of the Telegram app has reached a threshold at which it can be treated like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok when it comes to working with German authorities.

A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed on Monday that the authorities had written to Telegram operators in the United Arab Emirates for not providing a channel for filing complaints and no contact person in Germany.

“The company now has the opportunity to react,” said spokeswoman Rabea Bönnighausen to reporters in Berlin.

Der Spiegel reported that the company could face fines of up to 5.5 million euros if it does not comply with the requirements.

Telegram did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Telegram, founded by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, has grown in popularity in Germany in recent years, including among right-wing groups and opponents of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2017, the Bundestag passed the Network Enforcement Act with the stated aim of enforcing the state’s existing restrictions on speaking, including the long-term online ban on Holocaust denial.

Opponents have argued that the law risks stifling free speech.

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