“Loosely Enforced” Rules Against Far-Right Contradicts Action Against ISIS Content
Far-right extremists are proliferating on Telegram. Last week, the Financial Times reported that the encrypted messaging platform has “useful features” that make it an ideal breeding ground for extremists to operate. Among those features include end-to-end encryption and its “loosely enforced” “prohibition of violence.” The report comes on the heels of Telegram’s well-publicized efforts to eliminate ISIS activity on its platform. In doing so, the company stated in unequivocal terms that they “support free speech and peaceful protest, but terrorism and propaganda of violence have no place on Telegram.”
“Whether it’s white supremacy or radical Islamism, all forms of extremism are toxic and should be equally condemned,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen. “As a private company, Telegram is free to establish its own rules for allowable content. But to bask in public plaudits for their removal of ISIS propaganda while simultaneously ignoring white supremacists’ misuse of the platform is disgraceful. For the sake of public safety, Telegram must consistently and uniformly enforce their own policies.”
In October, CEP researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch found that 65 extreme-right-wing Telegram channels experienced a user base growth of 43 percent in one month alone, growing to an average of 256 users. Allowing these types of channels to exist online is akin to building an infrastructure and allowing them to create “their own little network for people who subscribe to far-right ideologies,” he said. CEP has previously noted that Telegram is used by extremists to recruit, fundraise, communicate, and facilitate attacks. For example, last year a pro-ISIS channel called “Lethal Dose” featured step-by-step tutorials on how to make various toxins, ranging from cyanide to an anesthetic extracted from banana peels.
In October, Stephan Balliet attempted to live-stream his attack on a synagogue in the German city of Halle using the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch. The video was spread on far-right Telegram channels and was seem more than 72,000 times.
More recently, the anti-Semitic killings in Jersey City that left six people dead was celebrated on white supremacist Telegram channels. Numerous white supremacist and neo-Nazi channels on Telegram praised the attack and used the opportunity to urge further violence against Jews.