Techdirt's think tank, the Copia Institute, is working with the Trust & Safety Professional Association and its sister organization, the Trust & Safety Foundation, to produce an ongoing series of case studies about content moderation decisions. These case studies are presented in a neutral fashion, not aiming to criticize or applaud any particular decision, but to highlight the many different challenges that content moderators face and the tradeoffs they result in. Find more case studies here on Techdirt and on the TSF website.

Content Moderation Case Study: Telegram Gains Users But Struggles To Remove Violent Content (2021)

from the influx-of-insurrectionists dept

Summary: After Amazon refused to continue hosting Parler, the Twitter competitor favored by the American far-right, former Parler users looking to communicate with each other -- but dodge strict moderation -- adopted Telegram as their go-to service. Following the attack on the Capitol building in Washington, DC, chat app Telegram added 25 million users in a little over 72 hours.

Telegram has long been home to far-right groups, who often find their communications options limited by moderation policies that, unsurprisingly, remove violent or hateful content. Telegram's moderation is comparatively more lax than several of its social media competitors, making it the app of choice for far right personalities.

But Telegram appears to be attempting to handle the influx of users -- along with an influx of disturbing content. Some channels broadcasting extremist content have been removed by Telegram as the increasingly-popular chat service flexes its (until now rarely used) moderation muscle. According to the service, at least fifteen channels were removed by Telegram moderators, some of which were filled with white supremacist content.

Unfortunately, policing the service remains difficult. While Telegram claims to have blocked "dozens" of channels containing "calls to violence," journalists have had little trouble finding similarly violent content on the service, which either has eluded moderation or is being ignored by Telegram. While Telegram appears responsive to some notifications of potentially-illegal content, it also appears to be inconsistent in applying its own rule against inciting violence.

Decisions to be made by Telegram:

  • Should content contained in private chats (rather than public channels) be subjected to the same rules concerning violent content?

  • Given that many of its users migrated to Telegram after being banned elsewhere for posting extremist content, should the platform increase its moderation efforts targeting calls for violence?

  • Should a process be put in place to help prevent banned users/channels from resurfacing on Telegram under new names?

Questions and policy implications to consider:
  • Does Telegram's promise of user security and privacy dissuade it from engaging in more active content moderation?

  • Is context considered when engaging in moderation to avoid accidentally blocking people sharing content they feel is concerning, rather than promoting the content or endorsing its message?

  • Do reports of mass content violations (and lax moderation) draw extremists to Telegram? Does this increase the chance of the moderation problem "snowballing" into something that can no longer be managed effectively?

Resolution: Telegram continues to take a mostly hands-off approach to moderation but appears to be more responsive to complaints about calls to violence than it has been in the past. As it continues to draw more users -- many of whom have been kicked off other platforms -- its existing moderation issues are only going to increase.

Originally posted to the Trust & Safety Foundation website.

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Filed Under: chat, content moderation, violence
Companies: telegram


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 3:47pm

    innocuous leader

    because trouble getting in to this "Free Speech" site

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      TD is extreme corporatist w Marxist tactics!, 19 Mar 2021 @ 3:51pm

      Re: innocuous leader -- AND THEN all text went in!

      So it's NOT a simple "filter" as alleged. Seems some wacky combination of Cloudflare blocking TOR addresses (US ones seem more likely of late), and perhaps some keyword filtering or length limit.

      Can anyone get "Masnick" into the subject line, for instance? NEVER goes when I try it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 7:39pm

        Seems some wacky combination of Cloudflare blocking TOR addresses (US ones seem more likely of late), and perhaps some keyword filtering or length limit.

        Or maybe it’s because you spam comments over and over and over and over and over again, which means the spam filters end up marking you as a spambot and flag your IP as a source of spam. If you’d stop acting like a spambot, maybe you wouldn’t be caught in the spamfilters.

        Then again, by your own admission, you think Techdirt is some slowly eroding pissant tech blog that nobody reads. What the hell possesses you to act like such a site is somehow both insignificant and influential? What makes you so rabid with anger and hatred (and possibly sexual lust) over the fact that this site doesn’t cater exclusively to you and your warped, fucked up, “conservative communist” sociopolitical ideologies? Why have you trolled this site for over a decade when a far better use of your time would be to, I’unno, write your own?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 12:23am

          Re:

          Why have you trolled this site for over a decade when a far better use of your time would be to, I’unno, write your own?

          For the same reason the assholes given the boot from more civilized social media platforms keep trying desperately to force their way back rather than just setting up shop on a platform that actually wants them around I imagine: Being an asshole isn't as fun without a crowd of people to be an asshole to/in front of.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2021 @ 1:31am

          Re:

          If that's the troll I think it is, then they tried making a website, but
          no one came :)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    TD is extreme corporatist w Marxist tactics!, 19 Mar 2021 @ 3:48pm

    NEVER a mention of "left-wing" violence.

    NEVER a mention of "left-wing" violence.

    Amnesia of the Anarcho-Tyrannists

    https://www.unz.com/mmalkin/amnesia-of-the-anarcho-tyrannists/

    Is it just me or has the entire universe of establishment media, politics and Hollywood forgotten that this country has endured an entire year of relentless violent anarchotyranny? Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters set businesses and churches ablaze, smashed state capitols and laid siege to federal courthouses. They permanently destroyed precious statues and symbols of America's heritage. They assaulted elderly people, stalked and menaced bystanders, taunted and terrorized law enforcement. And they committed murder - dozens of times - in the name of social justice while the powers that be sat idly by.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 4:12pm

      Re: NEVER a mention of "left-wing" violence.

      There was some shit on fire, but nothing like the lies of you and your ilk dream. You're just spamming the same shit repeatedly now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2021 @ 4:00am

        Re: Re: NEVER a mention of "left-wing" violence.

        Insurance claims for two billion dollars isn’t just “some shit on fire,” nitwit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 7:54pm

      NEVER a mention of "left-wing" violence.

      When did armed “leftist” protestors take over a wildlife refuge?

      When did armed “leftist” protestors storm the U.S. Capitol?

      When did armed “leftist” protestors bomb abortion clinics, the Olympics, and a federal building that housed offices for numerous federal agencies?

      The few real examples of “leftist” political violence pale in comparison to the amount, and the carnage, of right-wing political violence. (Does anything that happened in the midst of the George Floyd protests look anywhere near as bad as the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing? If you say yes, you’re an intentionally ignorant asshole.) And this line would be a laugh and a half if it weren’t so goddamned ridiculous:

      They permanently destroyed precious statues and symbols of America's heritage.

      They tore down monuments meant to glorify a White supremacist nation-state that lasted four years, dedicated itself to the defense of slavery, was fucked over economically by the end of its existence, and betrayed the U.S. before ultimately crawling back into the Union in disgrace after the end of the War to Preserve Slavery. The Confederacy isn’t “heritage”; it’s four years out a two-and-a-half century history of the United States — and a period at the end of a sentence on a single page of a single chapter in the entirety of human history at best. And most of those statues and monuments went up after the Civil War as an implicit reminder to now-freed Black people that White people still ruled the country. What fucking “heritage” is there to celebrate regarding the Confederacy, other than its violently stubborn adherence to White supremacy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 12:20am

        Re:

        It's always so very telling when someone flips out over the removal or even destruction of statues aimed at celebrating slavery and those that defended it, as it tells you just so very much about that person. You can remember history just fine without putting up monuments celebrating and commemorating the more abhorrent people in it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2021 @ 1:21am

          Re: Re:

          I bet that if you live in the U.S., your house or apartment is on Indian land. I think this gives us carte blanch to tear down your property, agreed? Isn’t it much worse to be an occupier of stolen land than to put up a few statues? D.M. me your address, and I’ll send my antifa buddies over to your place to rectify the problem.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 2:16am

            Re: Re: Re:

            So...you ran out of bad arguments, decided to move the goalposts, toss in a few red herrings, then prop up a straw man to knock down in some insane rant comparing an individual's apartment with a statue of a slaveholder advocate?

            Seek some fucking help.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2021 @ 12:39am

        Re:

        When did “rightists” cause two billion dollars damage, blind federal agents with lasers, create “autonomous zones” (traitorous, insurrection zones, one of which is put up in Minneapolis today), burn down police stations, car dealerships, countless other businesses, destroy federal property including statues, and parts of federal buildings, and cause the deaths of thirty people? You’re so blind to what’s happening on the authoritarian Left’s side that it boggles the mind.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 10:34am

          Four things.

          1. Property damage isn’t something I’m largely concerned with because property can be replaced and lives can’t.

          2. Thirty deaths is, metaphorically, a handful of people compared to the hundreds of people killed by right-wing violence — which includes the nearly 200 people killed in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, every victim of violent anti-abortion zealots, the three people killed by Some Asshole who thought he was protecting property he wasn’t even invited to protect, and Officer Brian Sicknick.

          3. I’ve seen no form of credible indication that antifascist activists are directly responsible for one death, let alone thirty.

          4. Modern right-wing violence is far more of a threat to the safety and security of the United States than modern left-wing violence ever will be.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 9:41pm

      Re:

      You guys raided the government. Getting all uppity about a few statues of "heritage" is hypocritical peanuts. But then again, if I was stupid enough like you to go out and risk my own personal safety and reputation based on the words of a dumbass, then have said dumbass throw me to the dogs to save his own skin, I'd try to forget that happened too.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        cynoclast (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 5:22pm

        Re: Re:

        The government is long past needing raided: https://act.represent.us/sign/the-problem

        The election integrity protestors had the right location, just not the best reason.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 5:56pm

          election integrity protestors

          They weren’t protestors, they were rioters — and they stormed the Capitol to, by their own admission via their chants during the riot, find and kill then-Vice President Mike Pence. That hunt was part of a concerted effort to intimidate lawmakers into overturning the most closely-watched election in U.S. history. Those domestic terrorists weren’t concerned about “election integrity”. They were unhappy that Old 45 lost fair and square.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 21 Mar 2021 @ 12:14am

          Re: Re: Re:

          election integrity protestors

          Strange way to spell 'insurrectionist losers'(in every sense of the word loser), but you do you supporting a pack of deranged lunatics who refused to accept that their guy lost I guess.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 2:21am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "The election integrity protestors had the right location..."

          There were no protestors there. There were insurrectionists who stormed a building chanting about murdering a person they knew was inside that building, with the manifest intent to overturn the counting of votes.

          The closest they came to making that a "protest" was when a few of them decided to void their bowels on the rotunda floor. That at least, if tasteless and barbarous, did count as "civil disobedience". The rest, not so much.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2021 @ 12:55am

      Re: NEVER a mention of "left-wing" violence.

      Careful, the blind hatred the radical leftists have here for any logic that doesn’t comport with their own will force them to succumb to the binary fallacy: “You must be on the far right, since you don’t agree with me!” There’s never discussion about a possible spectrum of political views, or the fact that most people want rule of law and don’t agree with the burning of America, tearing down statues AND the attacks on the Capitol on Jan 6. Nope, if you don’t agree one hundred percent with their opinion, then you MUST be a fascist. There’s no hope for healing the division in America when we can’t even come together to condemn radical views on the far right AND the far left.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 10:44am

        most people want rule of law and don’t agree with the burning of America, tearing down statues AND the attacks on the Capitol on Jan 6

        I generally didn’t agree with the burning down of buildings in a handful cities across the country (which is hardly “burning … America”). That doesn’t mean I don’t, on some level, sympathise with those who believed riots — which, according to the one Black guy conservatives love to quote when it comes to talking about unity and peace and shit, are the language of the unheard. Stopping future riots doesn’t happen with a show of police force that resembles a military takeover in a foreign country. It happens when the conditions that caused the riots are addressed.

        I don’t give a fuck about the tearing down of monuments and statues dedicated to the Confederacy and its “heroes”. It was a racist nation-state dedicated to preserving slavery by any means necessary. It isn’t “heritage”; it’s hate.

        Your problem is how you’re trying to conflate riots over racial injustice and the tearing down of monuments that glorify racist traitors with an attack on a citadel of American democracy that attempted to overthrow the results of a free and fair election. You’ll find few people here who believe a (likely heavily insured) department store being burned down and armed insurrectionists chanting “hang Mike Pence” in the middle of the Capitol are somehow equivalent to one another.

        I can condemn left-wing violence. But it’s not nearly the same kind of threat to the United States as right-wing violence. Your whataboutism is cute in its attempt to conflate the two as being equally threatening — but it’s wrooooooooooooooooooooong.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 2:03pm

        Re: Re: NEVER a mention of "left-wing" violence.

        [Projects facts not in evidence]

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 3:55pm

    'You were the ones calling for liability, so there's the door.'

    Strangely enough when you have a recent and very visible example of what allowing that sort of stuff to flourish can result in platforms seem to be less willing to just chalk it up as 'harmless venting', and adding to that are the pushes to make platforms liable for user content, something which is just going to make them even quicker to pull anything that might be questionable to decrease the risks they might face for hosting such content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2021 @ 12:45am

    As usual when Techdirt agrees with a site’s moderation, no matter how oppressive it is to the SPIRIT of free-speech, it’s totally okay, and we’re reminded that “it’s their site and they can do what they want. Don’t like it? Then start your own site.” When they start their own site: “How dare they have a site that doesn’t moderate speech in the way we want?”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    cynoclast (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 5:20pm

    "violent content"

    There's no such thing. Videos are not and cannot be violent.

    What's with this newspeak shit of calling anything you want to denigrate violent?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    cynoclast (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 5:24pm

    "content moderation"

    is newspeak for censorship.

    Don't let The Inner Party tell you otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 5:57pm

      "content moderation" is newspeak for censorship

      Yes or no: Is it “censorship” if a newspaper refuses to print a letter to the editor regardless of its content?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        cynoclast (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 7:32pm

        Re:

        Doing nothing: Allowing speech on a platform built to allow posts

        Voluntary action: censorship by removing posts to a platform built to allow posts

        Compelled action: Being forced to print a letter

        You're trying to pretend the first is the third and nobody is falling for that strawman.

        That's the core of it. Censorship is a voluntary action, and anti-free speech advocates are pretending doing nothing (leaving posts alone) is something onerous and horrible, and compulsory.

        It's dishonest in the extreme.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Mar 2021 @ 6:25am

          Re: Re:

          "Compelled action: Being forced to print a letter"

          ...and "being forced to host an unwelcome guest".

          "You're trying to pretend the first is the third and nobody is falling for that strawman."

          No he's not. He's pointing out that preventing someone from evicting people or preventing them from shouting on their own premises is a violation of 1A. And of genertal property rights as well, but you alt-right asshats seem to have given up on those in favor of advocating closet communism - as long as it means you can no longer be shown the door by the bar owner or his online equivalent.

          "...anti-free speech advocates are pretending doing nothing (leaving posts alone) is something onerous and horrible, and compulsory."

          Yeah, because being forced to leave up, on their own property, posts saying "Ausländer raus!", "Black lives DON'T matter!", and "Hitler was right!" is indeed onerous and horrible.

          "It's dishonest in the extreme."

          ...says the troll who's consistently been carrying water for the alt-right's desperate attempt to make the online equivalent of bars cease throwing them out for being unpleasant assholes.

          Every argument you make is worthless as long as it rests on your attempt to make "censorship" include the concept of a property owner show the shouty asshole the door.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 21 Mar 2021 @ 12:12am

      'No no, I'm sure this time you actually ARE being censored...'

      As I've noted in the past when others have tried that ploy you're welcome to call moderation 'censorship', just keep in mind that by watering it down that much you'll have essentially made it a useless term because it will cover something as trivial as a bar kicking out a customer for swearing at the staff(which most people would support) all the way up to the government issuing an order that said customer is not allowed to speak(which is just a titch more problematic), swearing or not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 2:26am

      Re: "content moderation"

      "is newspeak for censorship."

      In which case "censorship" is as meaningless a term as redefining the act of screaming at someone as "murder" would accomplish.

      Because a private entity showing an undesired patron the door is not and never has been "censorship".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2021 @ 2:53pm

    Does Telegram's promise of user security and privacy dissuade it from engaging in more active content moderation?

    If it's not encrypted end-to-end, it's not private or secure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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