CNN reported that Telegram, an online social network which gained a great deal of popularity in the U.S. after the Israel-Hamas War, had begun to restrict access to Hamas channels and Hamas supporters. A number of channels used to broadcast content directly from Gaza have now been blocked.
CNN reports that I confirmed the inaccessibility of a Hamas channel, hamas_com, for iPhone users. However, it appears some Android users still may have access to other Hamas channels. Other channels with pro-Palestinian content didn’t seem to be affected and it’s not clear how many channels have been restricted.
Telegram, a Russian-based platform, has been popularized in recent years by extremists groups and figures from the far right in America like Nick Fuentes or Laura Loomer. So-called “active clubs,” which are essentially neo-Nazi fight clubs, also have an enormous presence on Telegram, though there’s plenty of benign social media activity on the platform as well.
Note that pro-Israeli accounts are also present on Telegram. These include the Israel Defense Forces, South First Responders and the Israel Defense Forces, who have posted some of those horrifying videos which emerged following the terror attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists on 7 October, inflicting 1,400 deaths.
Social media sites have become a war zone for the various factions in this conflict. Official channels as well as unofficial commentators post their views on platforms like Facebook and Telegram. These same platforms are also being inundated with a lot of disinformation and misinformation. X is particularly bad in this war because Elon Musk, the owner of X, spent the previous year creating incentives for bad information to spread.
Musk’s changes have boosted accounts that pay $8 per month for “verification” despite the fact that X doesn’t verify the identity of anyone on the site anymore. And the billionaire’s decision to pay creators for engagement has caused a flood of extremely distressing videos to be published on the site. Personally, I can attest to the fact that I’ve seen a large number of videos showing people being stabbed and shot in my “For You” page of people I don’t follow, an apparent move by those accounts to farm engagement.
CNN has noted that extreme content is often spread from platform to platform on social media, but the new war in Gaza and Israel saw Telegram as a hub for horrifying photos and video. The content gets republished in places like X.com, which has a much larger U.S. audience because Telegram still remains a niche platform in America.
Telegram didn’t immediately respond to questions sent Thursday evening. I’ll update this post if I hear back.