The logo of the instant messaging service Telegram on a smartphone on January 20, 2022.
Thomas Trutschel | Photothek | Getty Images
Telegram, the messaging app, restricted access to channels belonging to Palestinian militant group Hamas, acting to limit the group’s influence online after pressure from critics amid the ongoing conflict.
The platform blocked access to the official channel of Hamas, hamas_com and al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, for Android users, CNBC verified Wednesday.
It is not clear whether the firm has done the same on iOS.
When trying to access the channel, a message pops up saying: “Unfortunately, this channel can’t be displayed on Telegram apps downloaded from the Google Play Store.”
Some other Hamas-linked channels, such as Gaza Now, remain accessible on Telegram. Gaza Now has more than 1.6 million subscribers.
Russian state-owned media agency Tass earlier reported the development.
On Oct. 7, Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel, the largest in decades. The move has escalated violence in the region.
Social media companies have been under intense pressure to act on the spread of misinformation and propaganda amid the war.
It’s similar to what happened following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when the likes of Meta, Google, and Twitter, the Elon Musk-owned social media firm now known as X, came under similar pressure to crack down on pro-Russian propaganda and misinformation on their platforms.
Wagner, the state-funded private military company, has previously been blocked by Telegram.
The European Union has sent several warnings to the likes of X and Meta warning them that they face investigations and potential penalties under the Digital Services Act, a landmark piece of regulation requiring tech companies to clean their platforms of illegal and harmful content, if they don’t do enough to combat misinformation surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.
Telegram’s CEO, Pavel Durov, has previously resisted calls to remove Hamas’ presence on the app, stating that the group has been a crucial source of information about the war.
In a post on Oct. 13, Durov said that the platform’s moderators and AI tools removed millions of posts related to the war that are “obviously harmful” every day, but added that “tackling war-related coverage is seldom obvious.”
Hamas has previously “used Telegram to warn civilians in Ashkelon to leave the area ahead of their missile strikes,” the app’s Russian-born founder said in the post.
“Would shutting down their channel help save lives — or would it endanger more lives? While it would be easy for us to destroy this source of information, doing so risks exacerbating an already dire situation,” he added.