Telegram restricted access to Hamas channels for Android users, as reported by CNBC Wednesday, less than two weeks after CEO Pavel Durov defended keeping them open. The messaging app with 700 million monthly active users reportedly blocked the official channel of Hamas and its military wing, hamas_com and al-Qassam brigades, on Android devices.
Durov posted on Telegram on Oct. 13 saying Hamas used Telegram to warn civilians to leave an area ahead of a missile strike, an example of why those channels should be kept open as a unique source of information that does not amplify propaganda, unlike other algorithmic apps, due to Telegram’s structure of only showing info when a user subscribes to a channel.
“It’s always tempting to act on emotional impulses,” Durov said in his Telegram post. “But such complex situations require thorough consideration that should also take into account the differences between social platforms. As such, it’s unlikely that Telegram channels can be used to significantly amplify propaganda. Instead, they serve as a unique source of first-hand information for researchers, journalists, and fact-checkers.”
Meta, TikTok revised their content moderation policies in light of the conflict in Israel and Gaza earlier in the month, but the CEO’s statement made Telegram an outlier. A new policy for Android users, however, directly contradicts Durov’s previous position.
When trying to access one of the blocked channels, a pop-up appears saying: “Unfortunately, this channel can’t be displayed on Telegram apps downloaded from the Google Play Store,” according to CNBC.
It is not clear if Telegram has blocked the same channels on IOS. The pop-up specifically points to apps downloaded on Google Play, implying that the blocks are local to Android users.
Telegram did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Google cooperated with the Israeli Defence Forces to disable live traffic updates on Google Maps and Waze to protect local communities. Company CEO Sundar Pichai expressed concern for the victims of terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 10 in a post on X saying Google is “working to provide reliable, accurate information to people through our products.”
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