Economy, Sci & Tech

Telegram Blocks IS Channels

Telegram Blocks IS ChannelsTelegram Blocks IS Channels

Telegram said it had shut down 78 channels in 12 languages that had links to Islamic State terrorist group this week and improved ways for users to report illegal or objectionable activity on the social messaging network.

The company’s statement appeared an hour after Reuters published a piece detailing IS’s use of Telegram, Recorder Press reported.

The blocking and booting of IS-related channels was inevitable, as mainstream social platforms such as Twitter shut down thousands of IS-related accounts. Telegram has also been advertised on the Twitter accounts of IS supporters.

Telegram lets users subscribe to “channels”-public accounts that can broadcast messages to a large number of users. But it remains unconfirmed whether encrypted communications were directly used by the terrorists in Paris.

In September, Pavel Durov, the site’s Russian-born creator, had confirmed that he knew users associated with IS were using Telegram’s public broadcast feature, but said he did not feel the communications represented a threat.

FBI, Central Intelligence Agency and US Justice Department officials have cited the need for access to stay a step ahead of terrorists who may use encryption to hide planned attacks.

When reports about Telegram being used by IS and other terrorist groups were revealed, there was less scrutiny because it was not yet widely known. The founder of the service (most popular in Russia) set the messaging service up two years ago. It was originally formed to help Russians evade surveillance by their government.

“Like Telegram, the PlayStation allows users to create private rooms to communicate with other players, which are easy to use and hard to monitor,” said David Sancho, a malware researcher at Trend Micro in Madrid.

Durov founded Russia’s answer to Facebook VKontakte, in 2006, a social network for mostly Russian-speaking users.

As for concerns over the impenetrability of Telegram’s encryption, US privacy advocates and cryptography experts have been skeptical of the company’s claims since it touted a $300,000 reward for anyone who could break its encryption. However, he blamed the French government for its policies and carelessness that resulted in the tragedy.

Durov took to Instagram and Facebook this week to both offer his condolences to the victims and explain who he felt was really to blame.

“I think the French government is as responsible as ISIS (another name of IS) for this, because it is their policies and carelessness which eventually led to the tragedy,” he wrote, next to a picture of himself with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

“They take money away from hardworking people of France with outrageously high taxes and spend them on waging useless wars in the Middle East and on creating parasitic social paradise for North African immigrants.”

In September, Durov had said in an interview that he knew IS used his app.