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Telegram could face fines for not complying with German law: Report

Telegram could face fines as high as 55 million euros for not submitting to German laws, Der Spiegel reported over the weekend. The Justice Ministry has opened proceedings against the messaging app for failing to designate a contact person for the authorities and for not offering a procedure for taking down illegal content as required under German law, the report stated.

Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, which was enacted in 2017 and requires platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to delete any illegal or harmful content that is reported to them, did not apply to Telegram until now. But the German Justice Ministry is changing its stance and bringing Telegram under this law. The Federal Office of Justice has sent two letters from Bonn to Dubai in this regard, the report stated.

Telegram’s FAQ page states that it processes “legitimate requests to take down illegal public content (e.g., sticker sets, bots, and channels),” but it won’t process any requests related to chats, which it says are private among participants.

“The service touts itself as a platform that is beyond the reach of states and authorities, a place where anyone can write and make whatever claim they want,” the report stated.

Compliance with India’s IT Rules 2021

India’s new IT Rules 2021 require somewhat similar compliance from Telegram. In addition to taking down content when mandated by a court order or relevant government authority, Telegram has to comply with the requirements for significant social media intermediaries because the app currently has over 115 million active users in the country.

This requires the platform to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, grievance officer, and a nodal contact person. As a messaging platform, the platform must also enable tracing the originator of a message. Indian government officials have indicated that Telegram has complied with these rules so it isn’t clear why the platform is not complying with German law.

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However, Telegram’s compliance with Indian law is yet to be tested. On its FAQ page, the platform states that it won’t be a part of “politically motivated censorship” and “will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions.” The platform also prides itself in having “disclosed 0 bytes of user data to third parties, including governments,” so it is not sure how it will comply with the IT Rules 2021, which require it to share data with the Indian government under certain circumstances.

The Dubai-based messaging app, which was founded by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, boasts over 500 million monthly active users. According to app analytics company Sensor Tower, Telegram was the most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide for January 2021 with more than 63 million installs, with 24 percent of it coming from India. Some of the most popular channels on the platform cater to Indians.

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