Telegram’s Efforts to Restrict Extremist Channels May Not be as Effective as They Seem

Messages sent to an unrestricted channel called OfficialTheCollective, with over 4,000 members, often included references to restricted channels like SpecialQForces, a QAnon conspiracy channel, and encouraged users to join.

One message posted to OfficialTheCollective even provides instructions for bypassing Google and Apple’s restrictions, suggesting users to use the web browser to sideload Telegram. The message also includes a link to an instructional video on the video platform Rumble, which is popular with right-wing influencers.

Similarly, in the unrestricted ExpatsPortugalEngChannel, a message referenced a riot by Eritrean migrants in Germany. This message mirrored a post shared in the restricted channel @InTheEndGodAlwaysWins.

In some cases, Telegram restricts channels based on local laws, such as in Germany, which has strict rules against hate speech and neo-Nazism. However, researchers found that accessing restricted channels is still possible using VPNs and alternative SIM cards.

However, the act of restricting channels could potentially lead to increased radicalization as people seek out the technical means to access restricted content, according to experts. Furthermore, content from deplatformed channels may become more extreme as there is a reduced fear of content moderation.

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