Paris Terror Attacks: Messaging app used by Islamic State shuts down 78 propaganda channels
Messaging service says it was 'disturbed' at reports that terrorist group was using it and has blocked 78 accounts since Paris attacks
Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that has been recommended as a secure communications tool by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), has shut down dozens of communications channels used by the terrorist group.
The service said it had shut down 78 channels across 12 languages this week, and improved ways for users to report illegal or objectionable activity on Telegram.
We could identify and block these public channels thanks to reports you sent to email@example.com. Thank you! https://t.co/i0My3D4Nxa— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) November 18, 2015
This week we blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages. More info on our official channel: https://t.co/69Yhn2MCrK— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) November 18, 2015
It came after Isil issued guidelines to its members on how to avoid being hacked by activists and governments via a channel on the Telegram app.
Telegram was founded as a privacy-centric messaging app two years ago by Nikolai and Pavel Durov, who founded Russian social network VK. It is functionally similar to WhatsApp in some ways, but claims much better security features, such as "secret chats" that uses end-to-end encryption and self-deleting messages.
Telegram also lets users subscribe to "channels" - public accounts that can broadcast messages to a large number of users. The official "Telegram News" channel, for example, has almost 35,000 subscribers.
In a statement on Telegram News, the service said: "We were disturbed to learn that Telegram's public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda.
"We are carefully reviewing all reports sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and are taking appropriate action to block such channels. As a result, this week alone we blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages.
"We are also introducing an easier way for our users to report objectionable public content in the upcoming update of Telegram this week."
In a further statement, Telegram said it would take down illegal content, but that it was committed to free speech.
"For example, if criticising the government is illegal in a country, Telegram won't be part of such politically-motivated censorship. This goes against our founders' principles.
"While we do block terrorist (eg ISIS-related) bots and channels, we will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions."
Telegram rose in popularity after growing public awareness of encryption after the Edward Snowden revelations, and then after Facebook's aquisition of WhatsApp.
It now says it has 60 million active users, against more than 900 million for WhatsApp.
Earlier in the week, the Khilafah News channel, believed to be aligned with Isil, sent out a five-point guide on how to avoid hacking, via Telegram.
Instructions included warnings to use VPN, a tool to mask a user's location online, and to avoid using direct messages on Twitter.
The Khilafah News channel appears to be one of those to have been shut down.
Hacktivist group Anonymous this week "declared war" on Isil, telling the group to expect "massive cyber attacks". It then claimed to have taken down more than 6,000 Twitter accounts linked to Isil.