Skyline: The removal of hundreds of thousands of channels by the app "Telegram" under the pretext of fighting extremism needs clarification
Stockholm - The international human rights foundation Skyline calls on the founder of the Telegram app, Russian billionaire Pavel Durov, who recently took Emirati citizenship, to issue a full statement on the announcement of a center for "anti-extremism" in cooperation with the Telegram app. The center removed 15 million pieces of content and closed 6,824 channels in 2022 under the pretext of extremism and the spread of hate speech.
In a statement released today (Sunday), Skyline says it is closely following what the Riyadh-based Global Center for Countering Extremist Ideology (Etidal) announced about the joint work team between it and (Telegram) in the last quarter of 2022, which managed to remove 8,494,035 "extremist content" belonging to the three organizations "Al-Qaeda - ISIS - Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham" that spread this content on 3,616 channels.
The center's statement said, "Since the beginning of the joint cooperation between the Global Center for Countering Extremist Ideology (Etidal) and the platform (Telegram) on February 21 until the end of December 2022, 15,021,951 extremist content and 6,824 channels have been removed, distributed among three terrorist organizations.
Skyline points out that the large number of removed content and channels raises many questions about the mechanism used and the legal basis on which the application is based in deleting these channels and content, especially since the announcement of these numbers was made by a site, the Global Center for Combating Extremism, without explanation via the Telegram app.
Skyine also points out that this move raises doubts, especially because the deletion came shortly after the founder of the "Telegram" application obtained Emirati citizenship, known for his constant persecution of activists and opponents under the pretext of extremism. In addition, the center that announced its cooperation with the application is based in Saudi Arabia, which tops the list of countries with the greatest persecution and violation of dissidents and activists, under the pretext of establishing extremist groups as headquarters
"Skyline" also points out that any decision to remove channels or delete content must be officially announced by the management of the Telegram app, stating the legal and factual reasons that lead them to this matter, and by publishing neutral reports to ensure the legality of this procedure.
Accordingly, Skyline emphasises its concern that the announcement of the deletion of content and the removal of channels by the "Telegram" App may have been made without legal review, given the previous data, or that it was made at the request of a country, without rational reasons for these restrictions.
At the end of its statement, Skyline International calls on the "Telegram" app and its founder to publish an explanation of what the application has done and to confirm that users' data and information must be protected as a matter of priority due to their right to freedom of opinion and expression, guaranteed by international law. It also assures that any removal or follow-up by the application must be done in accordance with the legal codes of social media sites.