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Belgium to monitor Telegram to comply with new EU content moderation law

The icon for the instant messaging Telegram app is seen on a smartphone.
The icon for the instant messaging Telegram app is seen on a smartphone. Copyright AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Copyright AP Photo/Matt Slocum
By Lauren Chadwick
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New EU regulations require online platforms, for instance, to be transparent about their decisions regarding the removal of illegal content.

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Belgian authorities will be responsible for monitoring Telegram and addressing all European complaints about the messaging app.

Telegram is based in Dubai but has chosen legal representation in Belgium, a spokesman for the Belgian Institute of Post and Telecommunications (BIPT) confirmed to Euronews Next.

The EU's Digital Services Act (DSA), which took effect in February, requires companies located outside the bloc to have legal representation in one of the member states.

EU countries must also designate an independent authority to supervise companies' compliance with the new rules. This will officially start when Belgium designates the BIPT as a Digital Service Coordinator.

Founded in 2013 by Russian-born Pavel Durov, Telegram has around 41 million monthly users in the EU, slightly lower than the threshold required for it to be subject to more specific obligations under the DSA.

While these largest platforms are monitored by the European Commission, national EU authorities regulate the other digital platforms.

Most used social media app by Ukrainians for news

Durov said in an interview last month that he expects Telegram to hit one billion users worldwide in 2024. The app currently claims to have passed 900 million active monthly users.

While touted as a secure messaging app, it has also been used to spread Russian propaganda about the war in Ukraine.

A French report found a Russian disinformation network that uses Telegram for massive automated content sharing.

A poll published in November 2023, however, found that Ukrainians used Telegram the most of any other social media app for news consumption, with 72 per cent of people using it.

A Ukrainian parliamentary committee earlier this year spoke about Telegram as a possible national security threat and discussed the possibility of banning its activities in Ukraine. Others have called for the Ukrainian government to stop using it as well.

The Belgian newspaper De Standaard first reported that Belgium's regulator would be responsible for monitoring Telegram.

Jimmy Smedts, spokesman for the BIPT, told Euronews Next on Tuesday that the regulator will mainly ensure that Telegram complies with "due diligence obligations".

This includes allowing users to signal the presence of illegal content and informing interested parties of the removal of content.

The role of BIPT "is not to moderate illegal content online," Smedts said, "but rather to enforce the transparency obligations imposed on platforms in this field".

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