Telegram abides to rules and averts ban in Brazil

Messaging app pledges to cooperate with authorities in the fight against disinformation after risking suspension in the country due to unresponsiveness.
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

After nearly getting banned in Brazil, messaging app Telegram has complied with a series of demands from Brazilian authorities and has pledged to cooperate with the country's fight against disinformation.

The commitments follow a decision from the Superior Federal Court on Friday (18) in favor of a Federal Police request to ban the tool in Brazil. The ruling emerged after the company founded by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov failed to fully comply with various requests linked to ongoing investigations around the spread of disinformation and ignored contact attempts from Brazilian authorities.

Mobile operators Google and Apple had been contacted by Brazilian telecommunications agency Anatel to start taking the measures necessary to render the app unavailable nationwide. The expectation was that the ban would take effect as of today (21).

However, in a new ruling on Saturday (19), STF minister Alexandre de Moraes gave Telegram 24 hours to comply with the previously mentioned demands, which included removing profiles and channels dedicated to spreading disinformation. The Court also demanded the removal of links leading to confidential information on investigations under the fake news inquiry carried out by the Federal Police, shared by president Jair Bolsonaro on the channel, to place doubts over the integrity of the electoral system.

Additionally, the platform was required to appoint a legal representative in Brazil and work with the authorities to adopt measures to tackle the issue of fake news on the channel. According to the STF minister, Telegram was able to comply with all the demands just before the set deadline, and Moraes overturned his own decision on Sunday (20). Alan Campos Elias Thomaz, a lawyer, was appointed as the company's representative in Brazil.

In addition, Telegram has committed to manually monitoring its 100 most popular channels on a daily basis. The firm will partner with local fact-checking organizations to establish whether content posted on the messaging app is false and may tag certain posts as imprecise.

The messaging app is the main platform used by president Bolsonaro to communicate with his supporters -- his Telegram channel has over 1 million subscribers. The Brazilian head of state said the decision to ban the tool was "unacceptable" and that preventing people from communicating through the app could even lead to deaths. According to a survey carried out by Mobile Time & Opinion Box, Telegram is present in 60% of smartphones in Brazil.

Telegram's woes in Brazil follow similar issues in Germany, where the messaging app had been similarly unresponsive in relation to cooperating with the authorities in tackling extremist groups on the platform. After the German authorities threatened to ban the app, the company complied with requests from the police and blocked over 60 channels.

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