The German Justice Ministry is reportedly demanding the messaging app Telegram open itself to law enforcement and pay a fine of up to 55 million euros. The news comes after an elite police unit was disbanded over extremist group chats.
According to the news magazine, the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection demands that Telegram “obey the law,” the platform must “must be accessible to the authorities, immediately remove criminal content and actively transfer user data to investigators.”
Every month, more than 500 million security-conscious smartphone owners use Telegram. The app encrypts all chats and calls, and Russian-born founder Pavel Durov has not embraced the censorship or collaboration with law enforcement that his Silicon Valley competitors Facebook/WhatsApp’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey have.
Amid reports of drug markets, criminality, and the spread of “misinformation” on Telegram, Durov has consistently denied state authorities access to his users’ data. Privacy is paramount and the company’s selling point. “To this day, we have disclosed 0 bytes of user data to third parties, including governments,” reads a statement on Telegram’s website.
Germany’s Network Enforcement Act requires Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to delete any illegal or harmful content reported to them. The act did not previously apply to Telegram, but the Justice Ministry now wants it to comply.
News of the apparently impending crackdown comes just a day after the authorities in Frankfurt dissolved an elite police unit. The special operations command, known as SEK, was disbanded after some 20 members of the force used messaging apps to exchange extremist content outlawed in Germany.