Indonesia blocks Telegram, fearing terror groups using it to pass encrypted messages

Indonesia has blocked popular messaging service Telegram, over concerns of radical groups using the encrypted platform to spread information in the Muslim-majority nation.

The government blocked Telegram on the web last Friday, threatening to block the app after, if the company did not address illegal content on it.

In response, Telegram said on Sunday it would put together a team of moderators to actively remove “terrorist-related content.”

SEE ALSO: Facebook vows to fight terrorism with new algorithms and artificial intelligence

“Every month we block thousands of ISIS-related public channels,” Telegram CEO, Pavel Durov, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying.

The company has built its name on its end-to-end encryption, making it easier for groups to share information anonymously. Indonesian authorities said it decided to pull the plug due to the “many channels” on Telegram containing dangerous information.

Indonesia’s communications minister Rudiantara warned on Saturday that more social media services could be banned in the country, if they failed to filter radical content.

“Up to now only 50 percent (of radical content) has been filtered out by social media platform providers. This is disappointing … If there are no improvements we must consider shutting down all platforms,” he said.

Telegram has several million users in Indonesia.

In a statement on his Telegram channel, the messaging app’s CEO Pavel Durov said: “Telegram is heavily encrypted and privacy-oriented, but we’re no friends of terrorists

“I am confident we can efficiently eradicate terrorist propaganda without disrupting the legitimate use of Telegram by millions of Indonesians.”

Durov said that Telegram had “several million users” in the country.

Users took to Twitter to express their discontent with the ban, calling on users to block president Joko Widodo’s Twitter account in retaliation, with the hashtag #blokirjokowi — which translates to #BlockingJokowi:

I can’t believe Indonesia just blocked telegram wtf I have important chats there how am I supposed to access it now ?

— 판다 ? (@vdcarinef) July 14, 2017

China’s way now applied in Indonesia. #Telegram is banned. FB and WA will follow. Govt can ban organizations without court order @TIME

— Agus Nizami (@nizaminz) July 16, 2017

#BlokirJokowi being first popular hashtag. Its stance of Indonesia netizen. Form of solidarity against Telegram blocking by @jokowi govt

— Fahri Huseinsyah (@fahrihuseinsyah) July 16, 2017

Is it because of this sticker @jokowi blocks @telegram? #BlokirJokowi

— SiBonekaKayu (@SiBonekaKayu) July 15, 2017

We support the existence of @telegram @durov in Indonesia. We will block the account of the president of Indonesia.#BlokirJokowi

— SiBonekaKayu (@SiBonekaKayu) July 14, 2017

Indonesia isn’t the only country up in arms about messaging encryption. Countries like the UK and Australia have pushed for access to chat records, saying that encrypted messaging has hindered investigations into serious crimes.

The BBC notes that the Islamic State has relied on Telegram app over the years to communicate and distribute its propaganda.

Indonesia also has experienced serious terror attacks, some by home-grown militants radicalised from afar. A twin suicide bombing, which investigators have pinned to the Islamic State, was carried out at a Jakarta bus stop in May this year, killing three police officers and injuring several others.

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