Dozens of posts and online groups containing violent content related to the recent riots in Washington have been removed from Telegram, the encrypted messenger, according to the company.
Yet despite the move, Telegram remains plagued by far-right and white supremacist groups, with several of their channels garnering tens of thousands of subscribers, according to a review of the network by POLITICO. Several channels are specifically partnering with the white supremacist Proud Boys movement, while others are urging people to take up arms before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20.
In recent days – following the shutdown of Parler, the social network that primarily targets the right, and efforts by Facebook and Twitter to clean up their platforms of hateful material, far-right users have flooded other social networks like Telegram, which has seen 25 million new users signed up worldwide in the past three days, according to the chief executive of the company.
These companies have responded by removing some harmful materials. Telegram said that while it welcomes peaceful discussions of potential real-world protests on its platform, it regularly removes content directly related to the violence.
“In the past 24 hours alone, we have blocked dozens of public channels which contained calls for violence, and continue to monitor the situation closely,” Mike Ravdonikas, a Telegram spokesman, told POLITICO without however tell how the channels had been removed. “Our terms of service expressly prohibit public calls to violence.”
Telegram isn’t the only social network battling a wave of far-right content that has engulfed these new platforms after Google’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube cracked down on such content.
TikTok, the video app popular among teens, has also seen an influx of right-wing militia groups, some of whom have used the Chinese social network to mobilize support for their cause, including potentially offline protests before January 20. , according to Media Matters, a left-wing watchdog group.
After POLITICO reported several pro-militia and violent posts that had appeared on TikTok to the company, the social network deleted those posts. But hashtags supporting Donald Trump’s false claims that the recent US presidential election was fraudulent were still prevalent on the platform, based on a review of online material.
“TikTok is strongly opposed to violence, both online and offline,” Jamie Favazza, a spokesperson for TikTok, said in a statement. “We have updated our previous policy on dangerous individuals and organizations to focus more comprehensively on the issue of violent extremism.”
Yet it is on Telegram that American extremist groups have spent months fomenting calls for violence and promoting debunked claims – all with little to no oversight of what has been said.
On Wednesday morning, POLITICO could see several Telegram groups – with hundreds of thousands of members, collectively – peddling anti-Semitic attacks, calls for violence against government officials, conspiracy theories associated with QAnon and claiming that there is a so-called deep-state plot to undermine Trump’s presidency.
There has been a significant increase in these posts since January 6, after major social networks decided to take down the accounts of prominent contested content providers, a process called “deplatforming.”
“Deplatformation won’t make these things go away,” said Claire Wardle, co-founder of FirstDraftNews, a nonprofit that works with media organizations to fight online disinformation. “There will always be spaces where people can go to coordinate these types of activities.”
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