Telegram, a “secure app” considered by a national court to be a source of piracy

“Telegram is a messaging app focused on speed and security.” This is how the platform defines itself, with 900 million users worldwide, it is the second most used after WhatsApp. To take this place, Telegram has built its growth on two pillars: privacy and the efficiency of its system for uploading files and accessing them from any device. These are the two aspects that have put it in the eye of the storm in Spain, after a national court ordered its preventive closure for hosting copyrighted content.

The decision was made by Judge Santiago Pedras following a complaint by Mediaset, Antena 3, Movistar and Egeda, the rights management organization for audiovisual producers, who accuse the messaging system of redistributing their content without their permission. Telegram’s lack of cooperation with a judge led to a shutdown order, an unprecedented measure in Europe.

Telegram has approximately 8.5 million users in Spain. According to a recent CNMC survey, 18% of Internet users use it. According to Statista, 26% of its users open it several times a day and 28% at least once. However, its use as a platform for downloading illegal files is by no means the majority, nor is it what makes it a popular application.

Despite this, efficiency in uploading content and allowing access to it is one of its hallmarks. The app itself boasts of its “powerful file sharing options”: “Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based messaging with constant sync. As a result, you can access your messages simultaneously from different devices, including tablets and computers, and share an unlimited number of photos, videos and files (doc, zip, mp3, etc.) up to 2 gigabytes each. ” he explains. The application itself.

This is combined with its strong encryption of both conversations and the files themselves and its “revolutionary privacy policy”. This is based on avoiding the practice of American platforms that leave security holes through which the country’s security services can sneak in – as revealed by Edward Snowden – and is also not based on harvesting personal data for advertising.

“We believe that the two most important components of Internet privacy should be: 1) Protecting your private conversations from prying third parties, such as officials, employees, etc. 2) Protect your personal data from third parties such as vendors, advertisers, etc.,” they explain.

The app closes the loop with a warning that it does not consider copyright to be a legitimate justification for intruding on private conversations. “All Telegram chats and groups are private between their participants. We do not process claims related to them,” the app explains in its copyright claims section.

Avoid censorship

While this series of tools may have very clear uses for piracy, it’s not what has made Telegram the most used messaging app in the world behind WhatsApp.

Telegram was founded in the summer of 2013 by Pavel Durov, a 29-year-old who was already a billionaire at the time after founding and selling VK, the Russian Facebook. But Durov’s story isn’t like that of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who become tech billionaires.

Durov was forced to leave VK due to threats from the Kremlin, which soon forced him into exile. Vladimir Putin’s government tried to access the personal data of Ukrainian activists, but Durov and his team refused. The answer was to give up control of the social network or face the consequences.

What happened with VK was crucial for the development of Telegram. Both Durov, who is now 40 and considers himself stateless, and his team of developers at St. Petersburg University, who were also forced to leave Russia, suggested that the same thing as VK could not happen to Telegram. They created the messaging app as a secure option for telecommuting and with much more modest moderation than most other social networks. Its headquarters are in Dubai.

This is what has made Telegram a favorite option for activists around the world, but also for extremist groups who use it as a safe place to organize or share information. The app is regularly criticized for its channels of Nazi content or hosting child pornography. This was, for example, a tool used by organizers of neo-Nazi protests during the pandemic.

Durov recently refused to block Hamas channels that are banned on other platforms. “Hamas used a telegram to warn civilians in Ashkelon to leave the area before a rocket attack. “Would closing your channel help save lives or put more lives at risk?” – said its founder in his last message to his followers. “It’s always tempting to act on emotional impulses. But these types of difficult situations require deep reflection, which should also take into account the differences between social platforms,” ​​he continued.

Now, Judge Pedraz accuses the platform of hosting copyrighted content without the permission of its owners and has ordered its preventive closure in Spain. contacted Telegram to add its position in this information, but has not yet received a response.

How Telegram makes money

Telegram is not profitable. It is sustained thanks to the wealth and donations of its founding team. However, for two years, the main priority of the platform was to become a sustainable service.

According to Durov, they are close to achieving it. Its two main sources of income are sponsored messages, which are advertisements that appear on some public channels; and premium subscriptions that allow users to unlock exclusive additional features.

They may not bring in a lot of money, but the Telegram key is not superfluous. “In the last hour, millions of people signed up and shared content on Telegram, while Instagram and Facebook were down,” Durov boasted two weeks ago, during the last major failure of the networks’ service. “Interestingly, Telegram is more reliable than these services, despite the fact that it spends several times less on infrastructure per user. We also have about 1,000 times (!) fewer full-time employees than Meta.”

According to the Financial Times, Telegram only has 50 full-time employees to serve its 900 million users. Perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of cooperation with justice, which has been repeated in other parts of the world: in 2023, a Brazilian judge ordered it to be closed in the country for not cooperating with the investigation of far-right groups that attacked it. Brasil .

Other safe applications

Telegram is the most recognized secure messaging app, but not the only and not the most secure. Signal, an app recommended by Edward Snowden himself, is known for its strong commitment to user security and privacy. Its development is supported by a non-profit organization called the Signal Foundation.

One of the main promoters of Signal shares Durov. This is Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, who left the company after a disagreement with Mark Zuckerberg over the privacy of its users. He is currently the CEO of Signal.

Other options are Threema, a European app based on privacy and complete anonymity (albeit for a fee) or Wire, which offers a variety of features including text and voice messaging, video calling, file sharing and conferencing. Like Signal and Threema, Wire is also open source.

Source: El Diario





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