EU Plans to Force Telegram to Curb Flow of Fake and Harmful Content

The popular messaging platform, Telegram, finds itself under the scrutiny of European Union (EU) regulators due to the widespread sharing of misinformation and harmful content through its channels. In response to this, the Prime Minister of Estonia has suggested invoking the same content moderation rules as applied to Facebook and YouTube.

A recently enacted EU law concerning digital services imposes stricter content moderation rules on large online platforms with an EU audience exceeding 45 million users. Regulators are currently considering whether Telegram meets this definition of a large online platform. However, Telegram maintains that they have less than 45 million active users within the EU.

Representatives of the EU, including Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, have voiced skepticism about these figures. Kallas has encouraged the European Commission to conduct an independent assessment of Telegram’s actual user reach, believing that the platform falls under the law as a “very large online platform”.

Reports from Bloomberg, based on unnamed sources, suggest that the European Commission is actively discussing user count methodology and criteria to determine whether a messaging service belongs to the category of large platforms with Telegram. If it is established that Telegram is violating content moderation rules, the platform could be subject to large fines, up to 6% of annual turnover. Repeat violators also risk being denied access to the EU’s digital market.

Counter to this, Telegram asserts that their platform is ineffective for widespread distribution of false news due to the lack of recommendation algorithms and news feeds. Additionally, the company is developing a fact-checking tool, known as Fact Check, which will enable messages to be flagged if they contain false information.

Time will soon reveal whether Telegram’s EU user base is indeed significantly smaller than the stated 45 million and if not, Data Protection Officer Pavel Durov will have to significantly tighten content moderation to avoid severe sanctions.

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