Messenger service Telegram, which has “proved popular with far-right groups and people opposed to Covid-related restrictions,” has blocked 64 of its channels in Germany, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday. The move came after Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office sent shutdown requests to the messenger service, the paper said.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the channels affected included that of Attila Hildmann, a vegan celebrity chef who spreads “conspiracy theories” about the coronavirus to more than 100,000 followers on the messaging service.
The Telegram app has become increasingly popular with activists and protesters, especially as platforms such as Facebook become more responsive to government pressure to crack down on those “spreading lies, threats or conspiracy theories.”
In Germany, Telegram has been blamed for fuelling an increasingly virulent subculture of “anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists” who exchange news about supposed dangers and arrange protests that have spilled over into violence.
Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser had said in remarks published last month that Germany could shut down Telegram and that it was discussing with its partners in the European Union how to regulate the messenger service.
After massive pressure from the federal government on Telegram, the company in Germany is taking action against “hatred and hate speech online” for the first time. According to information from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Telegram has blocked a total of 64 channels in the past few days. The closure was due to pressure from the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), it said.