Telegram agrees to delete terrorist content in Indonesia following partial block

Messaging app Telegram has agreed to block terrorist-related content in Indonesia after the government threatened to block the service over fears it was enabling terrorist communication.

The country’s Ministry of Communication and IT blocked the web-based version of the messaging service on Friday and has threatened to do more. ISIS has heightened attacks in Indonesia and the Philippines this year, and the chat app has long been seen as a key communication tool.

In response to the partial block, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said the company would remove ISIS-related channels flagged by the government and develop better systems.

That principally means Telegram will create “a dedicated team of moderators with knowledge of Indonesian language and culture to be able to process reports of terrorist-related content more quickly and accurately.” But Durov also said he had personally opened communication with Indonesian officials to make the process more efficient.

“It turns out that the officials of the Ministry recently emailed us a list of public channels with terrorism-related content on Telegram, and our team was unable to quickly process them. Unfortunately, I was unaware of these requests, which caused this miscommunication with the Ministry,” Durov recounted on his public Telegram channel.

The Telegram CEO started working on the service as early as 2012 with his brother Nikolai following Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. The service passed 100 million active users last year, of which “several million” are in Indonesia.

In his latest missive, Durov — who previously founded Russian Facebook rival VK — added that his company is “no friend of terrorists,” that’s despite some in the security community insisting otherwise. Durov went on to reveal that Telegram blocks “thousands of ISIS-related channels per month.”

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks in 2015, for one, it purged a range of terrorist content. That was particularly controversial because Durov seemed to admit months earlier that Telegram was aware that some of its users were from ISIS.

“Privacy, ultimately, is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism,” Durov said on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in September 2015, although he did go on to explain that ISIS would simply use another app if not Telegram.