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Message service Telegram to close some 'terror-related' public channels

Smartphone app Telegram, favoured by the Islamic State group thanks to the encrypted messaging it offers, is proving a headache for anti-terror investigators
Christophe Archambault (AFP/File)
The move comes after Indonesia blocked access and threatened a full ban on the app

The founder of encrypted messaging service Telegram said on Sunday that they will shut down "terrorist-related" public channels, in the wake of the Indonesian government blocking web-based access and threatening a full ban on the app due to its "terrorism" content.

"Telegram is heavily encrypted and privacy-oriented, but we're no friends of terrorists," Pavel Durov, founder of the messaging service announced on his Telegram channel, adding that he was "upset" over Indonesia's move, the Reuters news agency reports.

Duvrov also said that there had been a "miscommunication" with Indonesian authorities, and he was not aware of a request by the government to take down certain channels, but that since the blocking of access, the company had taken steps to block channels the Indonesian government said was carrying terrorism-related content.

Indonesia's communications ministry had previously said in a statement that "so many channels in the (Telegram) service contain radicalism and terrorism... encouragement and tips to assemble bombs or launch attacks" that it needed to block it.

The partial ban came as the country suffered from a string of attacks, including one carried out by a man police said was radicalized after reading radical material on Telegram. 

The government has so far b;ocked only access to the app via computer, but is preparing to impose a full ban.

"We are now preparing a process to close down Telegram app in full throughout Indonesia if Telegram does not come up with a standard operating procedure to handle law-violating contents," the communications ministry said in a statement issued late Friday.

In June, a lone wolf attacker stabbed two police officers in a mosque. Police said the man had no links to militant groups but had been radicalized through material he read on Telegram.

Telegram is a free Russian-designed messaging app that lets people exchange messages, photos and videos in groups of up to 5,000. It has attracted about 100 million users since its launch in 2013.

The app has come under fire in Russia after the state communications watchdog threatened to ban it in June, saying the company behind the service had failed to submit company details for registration.

Russia's FSB security agency also said Telegram was used by those behind April's Saint Petersburg metro bombing.

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