With over 400 million global subscribers, telegram was introduced and is widely regarded as a competitor to WhatsApp because of its ability to accommodate 2 lakh people in a private group compared to only 256 people per group in WhatsApp. There are several public channels which can be accessed by anyone using the app.
Telegram prevents data breach and is regarded as one of the safest communication channels. But high broadcast potential, robust security apparatus and unchecked public groups make it extremely difficult to monitor the flow of misinformation on the app.
Senior journalist Maya Mirchandani, who is currently a senior fellow at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, said that the speed at which the technology is able to amplify rumours (unchecked) is the main problem today. Disinformation itself is not new. The need of the hour is to identify the enemy. She is also leading research on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE), De-radicalization and Hate speech at ORF.
Hate speech and fake news on the other hand has reached a new platform on telegram.
For example, “Hindu Ekta zindabad” (Long live Hindu Unity) is a public group which had over 22,000 members engage with Islamophobic, anti-minority and abusive content.
Sample of a conversation of the group is given below among three people 1, 2 and 3.
After ‘1’ abuses Muslims, ‘2’ points out that Sanatan Dharma does not allow them to abuse another religion. Added to what ‘1’ said, person ‘3’ claims that seculars are traitors and should be considered worse than Muslims.
Thus, the matter now becomes ‘1’ and ‘3’ versus ‘2’, leading to corresponding criticism and hatred as is evident.
Telegram is filled with fake news stories which have already been debunked by various fact-checkers.
Moreover, the Darkweb activities have also been growing.
The challenge being faced by telegram today oscillates between balancing the right to privacy and the need to safeguard users against propaganda and disinformation. All these activities need to be regulated before the viral piece of news creates repercussions.