Telegram Back Online in Brazil After Suspension for Failing to Provide Data on Neo-Nazi Activities
Messaging app Telegram is now back online in Brazil after a federal judge lifted a suspension over the company’s failure to provide data on neo-Nazi activities, according to a report from AP News. The judge, Flávio Lucas, said that the initial suspension wasn’t reasonable and affected thousands of users unrelated to the investigation. However, Telegram was hit with a daily fine of R$1 million (about $200,000) for refusing to provide data.
The suspension was initially imposed as part of an investigation into school shootings last November, when a former student armed with a semi-automatic pistol and wearing a bulletproof vest fatally shot three people and wounded 13 after breaking into two schools in the small town of Aracruz. The teenager is believed to have been a member of an extremist group on Telegram, where bomb-making tutorials were shared.
The Federal Police ordered Telegram to provide details about the group’s member registration, including names, tax identification numbers, profile photos, bank information, and registered credit cards, among other things. However, Telegram refused, saying the group had been suspended and was unable to provide the information.
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said that the company would appeal the decision to block access to its platform in Brazil, stating that compliance was “technologically impossible.”
Telegram has been blocked in the past by other governments, including Iran, China, and Russia. It has also become popular among outlaws due to its unmoderated nature. As such, security researchers and intelligence agencies regularly track certain Telegram groups, focusing on ransomware gangs, cybercriminals, “patriotic hackers” allied with the Russian government, disinformation purveyors, and terrorist groups.
Regulation of social media platforms was a recurring theme in Brazil earlier this month, with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva meeting with his cabinet ministers, Supreme Court judges, governors, and mayors. The Brazilian government has been working to eradicate school violence with a particular focus on the influence of social media. The goal is to prevent further incidents and hold platforms accountable for failing to remove content that allegedly incites violence.
As per information from the source, Telegram has never shared user data with any government. Users only need to provide a phone number to sign up for a Telegram account and can use a pseudonym. From December, Telegram offered the option to create accounts with anonymous numbers.
It remains unclear how Brazil will proceed with the investigation into the extremist group on Telegram, but the case raises questions around the responsibility of tech companies when it comes to extremist content and promoting online safety.
Telegram’s suspension in Brazil and the subsequent lifting of it by a federal judge has raised concerns around online privacy, extremist content, and the responsibility of tech companies. While Telegram has never shared user data with any government and provides users with options for anonymity, it has also been popular among outlaws due to its unmoderated nature. With Brazil working to eradicate school violence and hold platforms accountable for failing to remove content that allegedly incites violence, the case raises questions around the issue of extremist content and online safety.