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This article was published on March 25, 2024

Spain suspends Telegram ban to investigate impact on users

The court has gone back on its own decision

Spain suspends Telegram ban to investigate impact on users

Spain’s High Court has suspended its own order that was set to block messaging app Telegram’s services in the country.  

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued an order on Friday calling for a temporary ban on Telegram following complaints from several media companies alleging the messaging app allows users to upload TV and video content without permission. 

The ban was expected to come into effect today. 

Pedraz has now halted the order and called for a police report to investigate the impact the temporary ban might have on users. 

Widely seen as a more secure alternative to WhatsApp, Telegram is the fourth most popular messaging app in the country, with around eight million users.

When the ban was announced on Friday it sparked a swathe of criticism. Some took to social media, calling the move an attack on free speech. 

Fernando Suárez, the president of the General Council of Professional Colleges of Computer Engineering of Spain, said it is “like deciding to close a province of our country because a case of drug trafficking or a robbery occurred within the territory.”

Spanish consumers’ association FACUA welcomes the investigation. “We celebrate that, after the barrage of criticism, Judge Pedraz has paused his disproportionate order of a precautionary blocking of Telegram,” said Spanish consumers’ association FACUA on X, formerly Twitter.  

The ban can be traced to July 2023, when Spain’s High Court sought information from Telegram pertaining to accounts spreading pirated content on its channels. Telegram’s lack of cooperation led the judge to take this “precautionary measure,” he said on Friday.

The ban may still come into effect depending on the results of the investigation.

Large tech companies under the microscope

The EU, armed with a swathe of new regulation cracking down on everything from competition to copyright, is increasingly putting large tech companies under the microscope and giving states more firepower to challenge them. 

Spain’s privacy watchdog banned OpenAI founder Sam Altman’s Worldcoin this month over concerns that the eye-scanning venture was illegally collecting and sharing data. 

Just last week, French regulators slapped Google with a €250mn fine for reasons similar to Telegram’s proposed ban: displaying media content without consent of the publishers. 

Launched in 2013, and directed by Russian-born businessman Pavel Durov, Telegram has positioned itself as a messaging app which provides users with more freedom and piracy compared to rivalling platforms.  

This, however, has been a double-edged sword, as it has also created a hotbed for drug sales, far-right activities, disinformation, the dissemination of violent content, child pornography, and terrorism.

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