Apple demands that Telegram removes posts involving protests in Belarus

Telegram flames
Telegram is yet to reappear.
Photo: Telegram/Cult of Mac

Apple is currently facing a mini-scandal involving messaging app Telegram and posts made by pro-democracy protestors in Belarus, which Apple asked to be removed.

The posts concern political controversy in the country, following this year’s election of President Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko, who has been president of Belarus since 1994, supposedly won 80 percent of the vote in August. However, opposition has accused his party of rigging the election, with the fallout continuing several months later.

The reason Apple is being dragged into this is because of information posted on the platform. These posts contained info about the people who supposedly helped sway the election. Apple asked for these posts to be removed because they contained personally identifiable information.

However, because these posts are the purpose of the channels they are posted on, this means removing entire channels. In a recent blog post, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov wrote that:

“This sly wording ignores the fact that channels like @karatelibelarusi and @belarusassholes consist entirely of personal information of violent oppressors and those who helped rig the elections – because that is why those channels exist.”

The Telegram Belarus controversy

There’s another issue as well. Apple has, in the past, replaced removed posts with a notice citing the rule violated. But, Durov said, Apple contacted Telegram and said that these notices cannot be shown to users because they are “irrelevant.” Apple used this same wording when it recently decreed Facebook was unable to alert users to a decision regarding fees for online events in-app.

Durov writes:

“[I]t’s time Apple learned to assume responsibility for their policy instead of trying to hide it from users – they deserve to know.”

This isn’t the first time Apple and Telegram have had their differences. In July, Telegram filed a formal antitrust complaint against Apple with the European Union over its App Store practices. It’s also not the first time that Apple has been caught up in political events — such as the Hong Kong protests or territorial disputes — through the way it enforces its rules.

There are no easy answers here — but providing transparency on rules seems like it’s not too much to ask.

Via: Daring Fireball