Brazil has ordered Apple and Google to block Telegram in the country following the messaging platform’s failure to comply with takedown requests. Meanwhile, in a comical explanation, the CEO said the failure to comply was because of a mix-up in email addresses.
If you live in Brazil and use Telegram, you will have to find another communication platform as Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes has called on Apple and Google to remove access to the app in their respective app stores. The government’s telecommunication agency, Anatel, is also to suspend Telegram until it complies with local orders and pay some fines.
Telegram is accused of not preventing the spread of misinformation on its platform in Brazil, despite president Jair Bolsonaro’s use of it to communicate frequently.
The government had threatened a ban this year due to Telegram failing to prevent misinformation about the election, despite being requested. However, Telegram did remove three channels owned by a supporter of the president, who allegedly spread misinformation and instigated violence.
Apparently, the government did not think Telegram did enough because Moraes said in his order that the platform did not cooperate with authorities.
Moraes’ order gives Apple and Google five days to kick out Telegram, while Anatel must put in place an official sanction within 24 hours. Phone carriers also have five days to block Telegram.
Google has confirmed receiving the order but will not comment publicly.
Bolsonaro and the Supreme Court have been locked in a tussle as the latter investigates the former for allegedly spreading misinformation about the Covid vaccine and leaking police documents. Telegram is caught in-between because it refuses to conform with government censorship demands.
Meanwhile, Telegram’s CEO and founder, Pavel Durov, has explained why his platform did not comply with the government’s requests. He said his company was looking at the wrong email address. Telegram had asked the Court to email takedown requests to a particular address, which the Court did not do. It kept sending requests to the old, general-purpose email, which perhaps due to shortage of staffing, Telegram was not actively monitoring. However, to be fair, Durov did invoke the latest global upheavals as part of the reasons for missing the moderation requests.
The good news, though, is that Telegram has now found the emails in the old address. It is now trying to make everything right. If you find this a tad hard to believe, here is the explanation in Durov’s own words:
“It seems that we had an issue with emails going between our telegram.org corporate addresses and the Brazilian Supreme Court. As a result of this miscommunication, the Court ruled to ban Telegram for being unresponsive.
“On behalf of our team, I apologize to the Brazilian Supreme Court for our negligence. We definitely could have done a better job.
“We complied with an earlier court decision in late February and responded with a suggestion to send future takedown requests to a dedicated email address. Unfortunately, our response must have been lost, because the Court used the old general-purpose email address in further attempts to reach us. As a result, we missed its decision in early March that contained a follow-up takedown request. Luckily, we have now found and processed it, delivering another report to the Court today.
“Because tens of millions of Brazilians rely on Telegram to communicate with family, friends and colleagues, I ask the Court to consider delaying its ruling for a few days at its discretion to allow us to remedy the situation by appointing a representative in Brazil and setting up a framework to react to future pressing issues like this in an expedited manner.
“The last 3 weeks have been unprecedented for the world and for Telegram. Our content moderation team was flooded with requests from multiple parties. However, I am certain that once a reliable channel of communication is established, we’ll be able to efficiently process takedown requests for public channels that are illegal in Brazil.”