Hamas Channels on Telegram Blocked by Google, Apple Stores
The popular encrypted messaging app Telegram has discreetly implemented restrictions on multiple channels associated with the Palestinian armed group Hamas. This move has affected access to Hamas’s official account, the account of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, and the news account Gaza Now on versions of Telegram available for download from Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
These accounts, which have garnered significant followings since the group attacked Israel in early October, are still accessible on the online version of Telegram and the app downloaded directly from Telegram’s website.
While Telegram has not publicly disclosed the reasons for these restrictions, they followed a letter from the Zachor Legal Institute, a US-based group opposing “anti-Israel movements,” to Apple, highlighting that seven Hamas-linked accounts remained accessible on iOS but were blocked for Android users.
Apple and Telegram have not provided public comments. Still, Google stated that Google Play requires apps with user-generated content to moderate content that promotes terrorism, incites violence, or celebrates terrorist acts.
Hamas, governing the Gaza Strip, is designated as a “terrorist” organization by several countries, including the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Paraguay.
Hamas, Other Rebel Groups Use Telegram To Spread Ideologies
Hamas has widely used Telegram to disseminate its message, including broadcasting violent videos and images of attacks on Israeli communities in real-time. Other groups like ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda have also used Telegram to promote their ideologies and claim responsibility for attacks.
Layla Mashkoor, an associate editor at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, explained that Telegram’s loose moderation policies allowed militant groups to share graphic content, which could spread to other parts of the internet.
Since the restrictions on the Google Play and App Store versions of Telegram, the Hamas-related channels have lost many subscribers.
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has defended the platform’s moderation policies, emphasizing its value in providing information about the Israel-Hamas conflict. He stated that Telegram channels primarily serve as sources of information for researchers, journalists, and fact-checkers.
Hamas is preparing for potential removal from Telegram and has urged its followers to download a dedicated app. Smaller channels could continue disseminating Hamas’s message if Telegram enforces stricter content controls.
It’s important to note that the classification of Hamas as a terrorist organization varies depending on the country and its official stance on the group.