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Telegram avoids ban in Indonesia by pledging to address negative content

Rudiantara and Pavel Durov

The government of Indonesia has dropped its threat to block the encrypted messaging service Telegram.

Rudiantara, Indonesia’s minister of Communications and Information Technology, had threatened the service with a ban unless it helped to restrict access to unlawful content, including radical terrorist propaganda. Last month, Telegram’s founder Pavel Durov affirmed that “terrorist-related” public channels would be blocked.

Following a meeting between Durov and Rudiantara in Indonesia, the minister has announced that the government has “agreed to keep Telegram accessible”, adding that it would work with the company to implement standard procedures to “address the negative content in Telegram”. He noted that other social media sites such as Facebook and Google could be subjected to similar scrutiny in the “near future”.

The government had previously requested internet companies to prevent access to eleven addresses which were using Telegram’s web version. Suspected militants apprehended by the Indonesian police confirmed that they had used the service to communicate in an attempt to coordinate attacks.

Rudiantara stated that the ban could be lifted shortly. The government was criticised in some circles for attempting to block access to the app rather than using it for intelligence gathering by monitoring conversations, but Durov vetoed this approach, saying that he would not have travelled to Indonesia if the government had suggested it.

“The basis of Telegram is a 100 per cent promise of encryption. This is why our company exists,” said Durov. “We’ve discussed ways to block the public channels available for the propaganda of terrorism, which is something that we are committed to do.” He noted that Telegram has a sign-up rate of around 20,000 people daily in Indonesia.

In June, Telegram was threatened with a ban in Russia if it didn’t register its details with the government. Durov agreed to these terms but stipulated that the firm would never share private user data with the authorities.

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