Tele­gram blocks ter­ror con­tent af­ter In­done­sia threat­ens ban

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

The en­crypted mes­sag­ing app Tele­gram is form­ing a team of mod­er­a­tors who are fa­mil­iar with In­done­sian cul­ture and lan­guage so it can re­move “ter­ror­ist-re­lated con­tent” faster, its co-founder said yes­ter­day, af­ter In­done­sia lim­ited ac­cess to the app and threat­ened a to­tal ban. Pavel Durov, who with his brother Niko­lai founded the app in 2013, said in a mes­sage to his 40,000 fol­low­ers on Tele­gram that he’d been un­aware of a fail­ure to quickly re­spond to an In­done­sian gov­ern­ment re­quest to block a num­ber of of­fend­ing chan­nels - chat groups on the app - but was now rec­ti­fy­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

The Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy said Fri­day that it was pre­par­ing for the to­tal clo­sure of Tele­gram in In­done­sia, where it has sev­eral mil­lion users, if it didn’t de­velop pro­ce­dures to block un­law­ful con­tent. As a par­tial mea­sure, it asked in­ter­net com­pa­nies in the world’s most pop­u­lous Mus­lim na­tion to block ac­cess to 11 ad­dresses of­fer­ing the web ver­sion of Tele­gram. Samuel Panger­a­pan, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of in­for­mat­ics ap­pli­ca­tions at the min­istry, said the app is used to re­cruit In­done­sians into mil­i­tant groups and to spread hate and meth­ods for car­ry­ing out at­tacks in­clud­ing bomb mak­ing.

Sus­pected mil­i­tants ar­rested by In­done­sian po­lice re­cently have told au­thor­i­ties that they com­mu­ni­cated with each other via Tele­gram and re­ceived or­ders and di­rec­tions to carry out at­tacks through the app, in­clud­ing from Bahrun Naim, an In­done­sian with the Is­lamic State group in Syria ac­cused of or­ches­trat­ing sev­eral at­tacks in the past 18 months. Durov said Tele­gram has now blocked the chan­nels that were re­ported to it by the In­done­sian gov­ern­ment.

Mea­sures against Tele­gram

“We are form­ing a ded­i­cated team of mod­er­a­tors with knowl­edge of In­done­sian cul­ture and lan­guage to be able to process re­ports of ter­ror­ist-re­lated con­tent more quickly and ac­cu­rately,” he said. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Ru­di­antara, who goes by one name, said he had re­ceived an apol­ogy from Durov, who was ap­par­ently not aware of sev­eral re­quests from the min­istry since 2016. “I ap­pre­ci­ate the re­sponse from Pavel Durov and the min­istry will fol­low it up as soon as pos­si­ble in terms of tech­ni­cal de­tails so that stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dures can be im­ple­mented im­me­di­ately,” Ru­di­antara said.

In­done­sia’s mea­sures against Tele­gram come as South­east Asian na­tions step up ef­forts to com­bat Is­lamic rad­i­cal­ism fol­low­ing the cap­ture of the south­ern Philip­pine city of Marawi by Is­lamic State group-linked mil­i­tants. Nearly two months af­ter the ini­tial as­sault, Philip­pine forces are still bat­tling to re­gain com­plete con­trol of the city. Ex­perts fear the south­ern Philip­pines could be­come a new base for the IS, in­clud­ing In­done­sian and Malaysian mil­i­tants re­turn­ing from the Mid­dle East, as an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion re­takes ter­ri­tory held by the IS in Syria and Iraq.

But the gov­ern­ment move sparked a pub­lic out­cry in In­done­sia, with Twit­ter and Face­book ex­plod­ing with neg­a­tive com­ments and some peo­ple re­port­ing they were un­able to ac­cess the web.tele­gram.org do­main. In­done­sians are among the world’s big­gest users of so­cial me­dia. The free mes­sag­ing ser­vice can be used as a smart­phone app and on com­put­ers through a web in­ter­face or desk­top mes­sen­ger. Its strong en­cryp­tion has con­tributed to its pop­u­lar­ity with those con­cerned about pri­vacy and se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the dig­i­tal era but also at­tracted mil­i­tant groups and other crim­i­nal el­e­ments. Durov said Tele­gram blocks thou­sands of IS-re­lated chan­nels a month and is “al­ways open to ideas on how to get bet­ter at this.” —AP

BANGKOK: The mes­sag­ing app Tele­gram is dis­played on a smart­phone, in Bangkok, Thai­land. —AP

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