US Politics

Far-right groups rush to make backup chats as encrypted messaging service battles uptick in extremism

A protester holds a Trump flag inside the US Capitol Building near the Senate Chamber. Source: Getty Images

Encrypted messaging service, Telegram, has begun the mammoth task of removing extremist channels and far-right groups that are calling for violence after an influx of new sign-ups.

As encrypted messaging service, Telegram, confirms it’s in the process of taking down violent extremist groups, those on the far-right, including Neo-Nazis, are racing to make backup channels and private group chats. 

Dozens of far-right groups, identified by The Feed, have been shut down or had posts censored by Telegram in the past 24 hours. 

These channels included one with 10,000 subscribers named ‘Western Masculine’. While another channel, which was removed, was dedicated to sharing statements from US President Donald Trump and had almost 354,000 followers.

On Thursday morning, admins of far-right and Neo-Nazi groups expressed concern about their channels getting shut down.

“Telegram is randomly nuking some... channels… I highly advise any subs here on associated channels to join this group where an automated system will continue to share and forward news,” one group admin wrote, adding, "this is one group of many.”

The Feed entered one of the private chats and saw deeply anti-semitic, violent and misogynistic rhetoric. The admin urged members to request people to be banned from the chat for including their real image or “being a woman.”

The admin claimed they were managing five separate groups simultaneously and weeding out those who seemed “sus”.

Telegram released a statement yesterday claiming it surpassed half a billion users worldwide, with 25 million new signups in the last few days.

This surge in new membership has resulted in an increased need for moderation by the app. 

"Our moderators are reviewing an increased number of reports related to public posts with calls to violence, which are expressly forbidden by our Terms of Service," Telegram spokesperson, Remi Vaughn, told CNN. 

"In the past 24 hours we have blocked dozens of public channels that posted calls to violence for thousands of subscribers,” Mr Vaughn added.

The spokesperson said Telegram welcomes "peaceful discussion and peaceful protests" but routinely removes "publicly available content that contains direct calls to violence."

Jake Angeli (centre) - known online as the ‘Q Shaman’ - pictured inside the Capitol.
Jake Angeli (centre) - known online as the ‘Q Shaman’ - pictured inside the Capitol.
Getty Images

The explosion in new signups on encrypted messaging services like Telegram and Signal comes after far-right social media network, Parler, was removed from Amazon and Google. 

Parler was taken offline following claims the site allowed violent rhetoric on its platform that culminated in the siege of the US Capitol. 

While earlier this month, messaging service, WhatsApp, received backlash after it indicated that users outside the UK and European Union would lose access to their accounts on February 8 unless they agreed to let Facebook and its subsidiaries collect WhatsApp data. 

Following WhatsApp's announcement, there was a 4,200 per cent week on week increase in downloads of Signal, according to data gathered by app-analytics firm Sensor Tower.

The Feed has contacted Telegram for comment