High-level, establishment officials in the German government, all of whom outwardly extol liberal values like freedom of expression, have called for Telegram—the hugely popular encrypted messaging application—to be expunged from the Apple and Google app store, claiming that the app is a tool for radicalization commonly used to spread misinformation and incite mass protests.
The officials–which include Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP), Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU), Interior Minister of Lower Saxony Boris Pistorius (SPD), and SPD Chairwoman Saskia Esken, among others–say they plan to lobby their tech giant allies in Silicon Valley to block German citizens from having access to the messaging app, FOCUS Online reports.
If banned, Germany would join the ranks of Iran, China, and Pakistan—all of which have blocked Telegram to limit freedom of expression and stifle political dissent within their respective countries.
The growing chorus of left-liberal politicians calling for the app’s banning comes as the encrypted messaging application has increasingly undermined the German government’s monopoly on the dissemination of information.
For this reason, alone, politicians from Germany’s establishment right and left have been quick to censure the messaging application, calling it a vehicle that’s used to mobilize, unite, and organize disparate right-wing movements, anti-lockdown protesters, vaccine skeptics, and so-called ‘lateral thinkers,’ also known as Querdenkers, and other anti-establishment groups.
In November, following an anti-lockdown torch-lit gathering which took place outside the residence of Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), the state minister called on California’s left-wing tech giants to immediately remove Telegram from their apps stores, since the protest had been largely facilitated by the messaging app.
“What’s happening in Telegram groups and channels violates the compliance rules of Apple and Google who offer it in their stores,” Pistorius said, adding: “We must urgently talk to them and persuade them to stop distributing Telegram.”
Days later, Pistorius’s sentiments were echoed by Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) after deaths threats directed at the Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) were revealed to have been made over the Telegram messaging app.
“What is spread on Telegram is disgusting, indecent, and criminal,” Buschmann said. “My wish is that we do not take a special German path, but rather create a common European legal framework that enables us to take action against hatred and agitation on the Internet,” the justice minister continued, alluding to the planned Digital Services Act (DSA), which intends to impose a uniform set content moderation restrictions on foreign tech platforms operating across EU member states.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.