In a big setback to UK-based free and open-source, cross-platform Telegram, which is facing flak over its privacy code across the globe, has landed in a soup with the German authorities slapping legal proceedings against the company.
The cloud-based instant messaging app's operator can be fined for failing to abide by laws requiring social media sites to police their users' actions. According to a German magazine, officials believe the use of the Telegram app has reached a threshold where it can be treated in the same way like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok when it comes to requiring cooperation with German authorities.
A German justice ministry spokeswoman has also confirmed that authorities have written to Telegram's operators in the United Arab Emirates over its failure to provide a channel for raising complaints and a contact person in Germany.
“The company now has the opportunity to respond,” the spokeswoman, Rabea Boennighausen, said in Berlin. The company may have to face fines of up to 5.5 million euros ($6.7 million) if it doesn't comply with the government requirements.
Telegram, which was founded by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, has grown in popularity in Germany in recent years, including among right-wing groups and those opposed to the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The German parliament passed the Network Enforcement Act in 2017 with the stated goal of ensuring that the country's existing limits on speech, including the long-standing ban on Holocaust denial, can be enforced online. Opponents have argued that the law risks stifling free speech.