Telegram messaging app creators face fines of up to 55 million euros in Germany.
The authorities in Germany require those responsible (the developers) of the application to provide user data to the security authorities in the event of a judicial request. In addition, they are asking the instant messaging platform to delete criminal content that does not comply with the country’s legal limits.
Meanwhile, other tech giants like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are deciding to abide by the regulations of the German authorities and remove illegal or harmful content under the Network Enforcement Act, a rule that previously did not apply to Telegram.
Who Made Telegram?
App creator Pavel Durov’s Instagram photo in the main heading looks like it could be one of thousands of other selfies from random influencers and is one of the rare signs of life of one of the world’s richest and most influential internet entrepreneurs.
Some call the 36-year-old “Russia’s Sugar Mountain” because in 2006 he founded the Russian Facebook clone VKontakte. But his latest investment is much more significant: Telegram, arguably the most dangerous messenger service in the world.
Little is known about the Russian billionaire, who is considered the richest person in his adopted country of Dubai. And what he says in public often sounds puzzling. “The outside world is a reflection of the inside world,” he wrote as a caption under his Instagram photo.
Durov’s Telegram app has slowly developed into a global player and is now installed on an incredible 570 million smartphones. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the app has been more popular than ever and the messenger service is one of the few communication platforms that can keep up with products from Silicon Valley. Millions of users switched from WhatsApp to Telegram this year, including many in Germany due to data protection problems.
But Telegram is not just a replacement for WhatsApp, it has different roots. The service advertises itself as a platform completely out of the reach of states and authorities, a place where anyone can write and claim what they want – and have been seen, other illegal things too.
This attracts conspiracy theorists such as the German “lateral thinker” movement, right-wing extremists, drug dealers and fraudsters. A “hit list” with the names of the members of the Bundestag can be found without a long search.
Counterfeiters use the app to sell fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, and dealers use it to sell all kinds of drugs. Crimes are planned and committed openly and visibly on Telegram – the app has become the equivalent of the darknet web in your pocket.
The authorities are powerless because Durov denies them any access to user data. He has built an opaque web of corporations that is difficult to penetrate and makes government access even more difficult.
The old and seldom true adage about the internet being a lawless place really applies to Telegram. Durov has registered companies in the Virgin Islands and Belize. “I’m not a big fan of country ideas myself,” he said New York Times in 2014.
The authorities are still waiting for an answer to their demands.