Civil society organizations raise alarm over safety and security issues plaguing Telegram
AzamKamolov / Pixabay
Civil society organizations raise alarm over safety and security issues plaguing Telegram

Access Now and a coalition of civil society organizations Wednesday raised alarm over safety and security issues plaguing popular messaging app, Telegram. In an open letter to CEO and co-founder of Telegram Pavel Durov, the coalition detailed what the company can do to ensure that the human rights of their 500 million users are prioritized.

Telegram is known for its use among groups who are oppressed and surveilled by government regimes. Human rights activists, bloggers and journalists in places such as Russia, Iran, Belarus and Hong Kong, have been extensively relying on Telegram group chats and news channels to organize and share information despite their governments’ brutal crackdowns, censorship and internet shutdowns. But there still remains some concern regarding the reliability and verification of information, digital security and content moderation.

Civil organizations and affected individuals have long been struggling in their efforts to remain safe and pursue accountability on the platform. Some of their recommendations include designing and implementing clear and transparent content governance framework and human rights and due diligence policies, as outlined in United Nations Guiding principles on Human Rights (UNGPs) and OECD Guidelines.

The letter also suggests that Telegram must ensure workable and accessible mechanisms for their users to provide feedback and request remedies for potential violations of their rights. They also insist the messaging platform implement better user safety and security measures that would be reflective of its previous actions, just as the platform did when it famously refused to cooperate with Russian law requiring the company to provide encryption keys to the government.

Other suggested measures to address the security concerns include better mechanisms to restrict the use of fake accounts and bots, restriction of download function of channels, deletion of orphaned channels and effective user notification and education on security.