Telegram logo on a smartphone. (Shutterstock/Allmy)

The app’s CEO proposed a three-step solution so the ban could be lifted by the government as soon as possible.

  17 July 2017 12:14

The government has blocked web-based access to a popular messaging service Telegram and threatened a full ban on the app due to its "terrorism" content, the government said.

The Ministry of Communication and Information said in a statement that "so many channels in the (Telegram) service contain radicalism and terrorism... encouragement and tips to assemble bombs or launch attacks" that it needed to block it.

The partial ban came as the country suffered from a string of attacks, including one carried out by a man police said was radicalized after reading radical material on Telegram. 

The government has so far blocked only access to the app via computer, but is preparing to impose a full ban.

"We are now preparing a process to close down Telegram app in full throughout Indonesia if Telegram does not come up with a standard operating procedure to handle law-violating contents," the Ministry said in a statement issued late Friday.

In June, a lone wolf attacker stabbed two police officers in a mosque. Police said the man had no links to militant groups but had been radicalised through material he read on Telegram.

Telegram is a free Russian-designed messaging app that lets people exchange messages, photos and videos in groups of up to 5,000. It has attracted about 100 million users since its launch in 2013.

The app has come under fire in Russia after the state communications watchdog threatened to ban it in June, saying the company behind the service had failed to submit company details for registration.

Russia's FSB security agency also said Telegram was used by those behind April's Saint Petersburg metro bombing.

Telegram’s response

Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov said through his Twitter that his company has never received any request nor complaints from the Indonesian government. However, on Sunday, after conducting some ‘investigation’ he said that the blocking was partially the company’s fault for not responding to the government request.

Through his Telegram channel, he claimed to just found out about an email sent by the Ministry about a list of public channels with terrorism-related content on Telegram, and how his team was unable to process the list.

“Unfortunately, I was unaware of these requests, which caused this miscommunication with the Ministry,” he wrote.

Pavel then proposed a three-step solution so the ban could be lifted by the government as soon as possible. 

“To fix the current situation, we’re implementing the following 3-step solution: 1) We have blocked all the terrorist-related public channels that have been previously reported to us by the Ministry of Communication and IT of Indonesia. 2) I emailed back to the Ministry to establish a direct channel of communication, which should allow us to work more efficiently on identifying and blocking terrorist propaganda in the future. 3) We are forming a dedicated team of moderators with knowledge of Indonesian language and culture to process reports of terrorist-related content more quickly and accurately.”

Pavel said that he already sent the proposed solutions to the Ministry and is awaiting for their response.

“Telegram is heavily encrypted and privacy-oriented, but we’re no friends of terrorist,” he said.

 

Agence France-Presse, with additional reporting by Adelia Anjani Putri.

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