Telegram blocks Hamas channels on Android

Telegram has blocked a number of channels belonging to the militant group Hamas. But this blocking is only done on Android phones because it violates Google Play Store guidelines.

According to a report by CNBC, two Telegram channels belonging to Hamas named ‘hamas_com’ and ‘al-Qassam brigades’ are now inaccessible to Android users. But other channels such as ‘Gaza Now’ can still be accessed on Telegram.

Users who try to access the channel are greeted with an error message saying, “Unfortunately this channel cannot be displayed in the Telegram app downloaded from the Google Play Store.”

The error message indicates that the blocking is only done on the Android platform, while on other platforms or operating systems the channel can still be accessed. An unnamed Google spokesperson referred to Google’s policy of banning violent content related to terrorism in apps.

After Hamas launched attacks on Israel on October 7, social media platforms such as Meta and Twitter/X said they had blocked Hamas-related accounts and limited the spread of misinformation related to the conflict on their platforms.

But Telegram’s policies are usually more lenient, and it rarely blocks channels unless it has to. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov was even hesitant to close Hamas’ channel.

In a post on his personal channel on October 13, Durov refused to delete Hamas’ channel because it was considered an important source of information.

Durov said Hamas had previously used Telegram to warn civilians in Ashkelon to evacuate before they fired missiles. But the Human Rights Watch report also found Hamas used Telegram to spread videos of its attacks.

“Does shutting down their channel help save lives – or does it endanger more lives? While it’s easy for us to destroy this source of information, it risks exacerbating an already severe situation,” Durov said in his post, as quoted by CNBC, Friday (27/10/2023).

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