Free Speech CRACKDOWN – In The Name Of Safety!?

Russian Press Secretary Dimitry Peskov, acting on behalf of Vladimir Putin, urged Paul Durov, the boss of the Telegram social media network, to institute close monitoring on the app. Terrorists, he said on Thursday, are using the platform.

In an interview with Life, a pro-government Russian outlet, Peskov expressed disappointment in Durov, saying that the government expected a man in his position to pay closer attention to the activities on his network. The network is a “phenomenal” resource, the spokesman said, but it has become a dangerous tool in terrorist hands, and is being used to coordinate attacks against the Russian people. However, he added that there are currently no plans in the works to ban Telegram in Russia.

The interview follows the March 22 terrorist attack on a Moscow concert hall in which 143 people were killed. RIA, a state-controlled Russian news agency, reported that Telegram served as a recruiting channel for Islamic State-affiliated group ISIS-K, a faction of the Pakistai Taliban.

Forty percent of Russia’s Internet users—some 49 million people—used Telegram in 2023, making it Russia’s most popular social media platform. Critics of the platform have long accused it of being a hub for hate speech and conspiracy theories.

Durov, the platform’s founder, responded to these critics in an October 2017 blog post, where he championed Telegram’s defense of free speech. It is a place, he said, where users are free to challenge the status quo, engage in political debate, and criticize their local authorities. Still, he said, calling for the harm of innocent people is “not OK,” and that this rule governs the moderation policies at the company.

However, when asked about the Russian war in Ukraine in a recent interview, Durov said he preferred not to comment. He’d rather, he said, maintain focus on how vital Telegram is for public discourse in the world, characterizing it as an “important” neutral platform for public debate.