Telegram Tightens Reins on Hamas-Linked Channels Amid Ongoing Conflict


Telegram Tightens Reins on Hamas-Linked Channels Amid Ongoing Conflict
© Getty Images News/Carl Court

As the turmoil between Hamas and Israel continues, the popular messaging platform, Telegram, has taken assertive measures to clamp down on channels believed to be affiliated with or directly operated by Hamas. The action represents a notable stride in reducing the flow of pro-Hamas propaganda since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Affected Channels

CNN reported that a principal channel, boasting a following of over 700,000 and known to be directly managed by Hamas’ military segment, the al-Qassam Brigades, is now out of reach for Telegram users on the app's iOS and Google Play Store platforms.

Furthermore, another account acknowledged to represent Hamas, which has accumulated more than 500,000 followers, and which frequently posted updates including videos from a group spokesperson and details regarding Israeli hostages taken by Hamas, is now partially restricted.

While users of Telegram’s iOS platform are barred from accessing the channel, it remains open to those using the Google Play Store version as of Thursday.

Behind the Restrictions

The limitations instated by Telegram suggest the influence of app store operators' policies.

Android users who attempted to access the blocked groups were met with a message stating, “Unfortunately, this channel can’t be displayed on Telegram apps downloaded from the Google Play Store”. A similar sentiment was expressed for iOS users, with a pop-up message indicating the channel's unavailability on their device.

Despite being headquartered in Dubai and founded by a Russian entrepreneur, Telegram has faced increased scrutiny over its role, especially from European officials, where promoting terrorist content is predominantly illegal.

The company's continued allowance of Hamas' usage of its platform further magnifies this scrutiny. When approached about whether Google had influenced Telegram's decision to limit access to Hamas-associated channels, a representative for Google elucidated that their app store policies necessitate developers to oversee content, particularly content that eulogizes terrorism.

If any violation of these stipulations is identified, Google ensures that pertinent action is taken. They reinforced their position by pointing to their publicly available policies: “We don’t allow apps with content related to terrorism, such as content that promotes terrorist acts, incites violence, or celebrates terrorist attacks”.

The developments spotlight the mounting pressure on social media platforms to manage content, especially in the realm of geopolitics and conflict, ensuring they align with global standards and legal expectations.