There are a lot of things about Telegram, social media and messaging apps for right-wing extremists that currently top the App Store. Its content moderation is Lacks and Scattershot. It is a well-built app that features mass communication as well as lots of encrypted chats and file sharing. And Telegram already has more users.
Following the Capitol Rebellion, Telegram announced that it had crossed 500 million active users globally. It had added 25 million new users in just 72 hours. The Dubai-based app has only a 2 percent user base in the US, but is becoming more popular among Americans. Telegram’s US downloads were up more than 700 percent in the first weeks of this year, as they were for the same period in 2020, according to data from the app measurement firm Sensor Tower.
The WhatsApp Privacy Update has led to the use of alternative messaging apps in recent weeks for a variety of reasons, including a fallout and a crackdown of other platforms following the Capital Riot. In the US, Signal, known for its end-to-end encrypted messages, had the same unique installations in the first 18 days of 2021 as it did in all of 2020.
Telegram is currently the most downloaded app in the Google Play Store, which does not have a signal for the top spot in the United States. The combination of Telegram’s distinctive features, however, made it particularly popular among American right-wing extremists, who have joined the platform after being turned away from Twitter, Facebook and parlors. The latter is another extremist favorite and was recently removed from the Internet, although it is now back in a very limited form.
Telegram has three main components. The channels, both public and private, are mostly one-way broadcasts that an unlimited number of people can follow.
Telegram also has public and private groups where up to 200,000 people can communicate. Groups on the signal for comparison, at a maximum of 1,000; On whatsapp 256. Following the outbreak of violence in India and Myanmar, Facebook-owned WhatsApp limited the ability to send messages to other groups to prevent the spread of misinformation. Large groups enable fake news – and call violence – to spread more quickly.
The third component of Telegram is called Secret Chat, where people can have one-to-one conversations that are encrypted end-to-end, meaning that hackers or police will not be able to see the contents of those messages.
Megan Square, an Elon University computer science professor and fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who researches online extremism, says that together, these social media and messaging facilities are “convenient” for online extremists.
“They can radicalize and recruit on a platform,” Squire told Recode. These features make it popular among activists globally. The application has been used equally by protest movements (Hong Kong) and extremists (Islamic State).
Last week, while marking a rare approach with regard to American extremists with too much of their hands, Telegram instigated dozens of public channels to violence, saying they violated the terms of service. It included a channel that, in the days before the inauguration, described how to make and conceal homemade guns and bombs. This week, the founder of the app, Russian tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov, said that after seeing an upswing in reports in the US, it made “hundreds” of calls for violence on public channels.
Many public channels and hate speeches, conspiracy theories and racist memories remain. The name currently has two channels with Proud Boys, each with about 40,000 followers. He said it has had a lot in recent weeks.
On Sunday, the Coalition for a Secure Web nonprofit group filed a long-standing lawsuit against Apple for boot telegrams from its App Store – as Apple did with the parlor – removing violent and extremist content from the app Cited his failure.
A Telegram spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
There is reason to believe that Telegram does not take content moderation as seriously as other platforms. Squire said he reported a manifesto about killing Muslims in the Telegram about two years ago, and it still continues. Last week, a Proud Boy posted the square’s address on the site. She reported it, but docking is one of the five categories of inappropriate content that you can report, and again, no one has taken it back. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, there is no way to track a report on Telegram and find out what happened to it.
But Lux moderation on social media messaging apps is also one of the many reasons for its popularity among extremists. Telegram, unlike other platforms, also allows file storage, which Square said is appealing to extremists who want to share radical videos and manifestos. In particular, Telegram’s very brief terms of service forbid promoting violence on public channels but do not mention anything about promoting violence on private channels or groups.
Telegram is also popular among extremists for reasons that are popular with everyone else: the app is great. It is easy to use and is often not offline. Squier said it is better than other apps popular among right-wing extremists such as Gab and Parlor. “It’s not inserted with bubble gum and duct tape,” she said.
Like, a lot of people use it. And communication platforms depend on network effects, which means they become more useful to those who are on them.
And with more and more extremists turning to Telegram after cracks on other platforms, the loose moderation of the app has the potential to create new echo chambers to make those more radical. How much Telegram moderates its site will decide what kind of platform it will become.