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3 Nov, 2023 15:28

Ukrainian security chief seeks to ban Telegram

The messaging app is “dangerous and vulnerable,” Aleksey Danilov claims, adding that he has never used it himself
Ukrainian security chief seeks to ban Telegram

The messaging app Telegram is a “dangerous” system that is being actively exploited for surveillance and influence campaigns, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council has told the news website Liga.net. Aleksey Danilov said he has never used Telegram himself and is ready to ban it outright if certain conditions are met.

“It’s not about journalism, it’s about influence,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainian outlet, published on Thursday, when asked about Telegram. The platform provides a space for “influence systems where people start promoting certain issues for money,” the Ukrainian security chief claimed.

“It is a very dangerous thing from a national security point of view,” he told Liga.net. Danilov argued that the security services should have access to the personal information of Telegram users, and voiced concern over anonymous channels. “I do not recognize anonymous things,” he said, adding that when he sees a nickname in a messaging app, he “needs to know” exactly who is hiding behind it. Danilov said he was “not against messengers” in general, but wants them to be transparent.

The security chief also described Telegram as “very vulnerable” and the go-to app for any intelligence or security service seeking to collect information on people. “In 99% of cases, [those spying] on your phone… get there through [Telegram],” he claimed, adding that he does not have the app on any of his devices.

When asked if Ukrainian authorities plan to ban the platform, Danilov acknowledged that Kiev could face pushback over such a move. “Do you know how much people invested in it?” he asked, adding that “entire groups” had put money into Telegram-related projects.

“If we get documents from relevant services that have a right to that, we won’t leave them unanswered,” the head of the National Security and Defense Council said.

Launched in 2013, Telegram is a cross-platform instant messaging service. It provides end-to-end encryption in voice and video calls, and an option to encrypt private messaging chats. The app also allows users to create large public groups with up to 200,000 members, and share one-way messages with unlimited audiences through what it calls channels.

The platform has repeatedly faced accusations of helping extremist groups due to its adherence to users’ privacy. The app was blocked in Russia between 2018 and 2020 over its refusal to cooperate with the Federal Security Service (FSB), particularly in the wake of a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg.

In 2022, the German government accused Telegram of providing a platform for Covid-19 deniers and “right-wing radicals” and even threatened to block the app if the company behind it failed to cooperate with Berlin and halt the spread of hate speech and extremism.

Danilov’s words came just days after Telegram blocked a channel accused of inciting anti-Jewish riots in the Russian southern Republic of Dagestan. ‘Utro Dagestan’ (Dagestan Morning), a channel with 65,000 subscribers, was accused of inciting anti-Semitic violence. Dagestan’s president, Sergey Melnikov, said the FSB believed the channel was linked to the Ukrainian intelligence services.

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