A week after a group of pro-Donald Trump extremists occupied the U.S Capitol building, the popular messaging app Telegram confirmed Wednesday it blocked “dozens” of channels on its massively popular platform. The reason, reports CNN, was similar to why Reddit booted a popular pro-Trump subreddit last week: “calls to violence.”
“We welcome peaceful discussion and peaceful protests, but routinely remove publicly-available content that contains direct calls to violence,” Telegram spokesperson Remi Vaughn told CNN.
Mashable reached out to Telegram to confirm the news, and to determine if the calls to violence were specific to the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, but received no immediate response.
The blocks come as, according to the New York Times, Telegram added 25 million new users over the course of the past weekend and early this week for a total of around 500 million users.
Notably, as Telegram explains on its FAQ page, channels can accommodate an unlimited number of users — thus making them the perfect place to broadcast your message to a wide audience. Importantly, unlike Telegram’s “Secret Chats,” they are not end-to-end encrypted.
Telegram’s quick action Wednesday to block public channels stands in contrast to a well-documented history of lax content moderation on issues like nonconsensual pornography. The blocks can be read as an attempt to avoid the fate of Parler, a social media platform favored by conservatives that lost its Amazon Web Service (AWS) hosting and was kicked off the Google Play and App Store after users advocated violence.
It’s a fate that Telegram is intimately acquainted with, as Apple temporarily pulled the app from its App Store in 2018.
As law enforcement warns of possible armed protests across the country on Inauguration Day, removing public calls to violence from your messaging platform seems at the very least like a good business move.
Time will tell, however, if Wednesday’s move by Telegram is anything more than performative.