Telegram messaging service tries to ban ISIS, but..

Pierluigi Paganini November 19, 2015

Telegram messaging service announced its actions against the abuses made by members of the ISIS, but it still allows communications in private groups.

In the wake of recent Paris attacks the experts increased their investigation on the communication channels used by members of the ISIS organization.

A few hours after the Paris attacks, investigators speculated terrorists were using the voice over IP implemented by the Play Station, but the unique certainly in this moment is that the terrorist organization is using the popular Telegram messaging service for its communications and to spread propaganda.

The terrorists are using the “Channels” feature implemented in the Telegram messaging service that allow users to subscribe to broadcast content published through a permanent URL. The feature allows publishers to reach a wide audience, the publishers can share messages, files, and images in an anonymous way both using a mobile device or PC.

Now the nonprofit organization running the Telegram messaging service announced that it is operating to ban the activities of terrorists. The organization has already identified several channels used by the ISIS and blocked them in response of abuse reports filed by Telegram users.

“We were disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda,” a Telegram spokesperson posted in the service’s Telegram News channel. “We are carefully reviewing all reports sent to us at [email protected] and are taking appropriate action to block such channels. As a result, this week alone we blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages.” 

Telegram messaging service

Telegram can block channels and also “sticker set” images, another feature abused to spread images through automated “bot” message applications.

strikers Telegram messaging service

Telegram clarifies that every time an abuse complaint is filed against public content, it checks the content alleged violated the publishing policy, then it evaluates to remove it:

“Please note that this does not apply to local restrictions on freedom of speech. For example, if criticizing the government is illegal in a country, Telegram won‘t be a part of such politically motivated censorship. This goes against our founders’ principles.”

“While we do block terrorist (e.g. ISIS-related) bots and channels, we will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions.” states Telegram.

Unfortunately, terrorists could still establish private connections, Telegram admitted that it is not able to block communications that happen in private groups, which can include up to 200 users.

All Telegram chats and group chats are private amongst their participants,” Telegram’s spokesperson wrote. “We do not process any requests related to them.”

This is a bad news because it means that group of ISIS members can still use the Telegram messaging service to share propaganda materials, operational instructions, and other information, within private groups.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Telegram messaging service, ISIS)

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