Apple has asked Telegram to take down anti-government Telegram channels in Belarus after those channels revealed personal information of “violent oppressors” and individuals inciting violence as part of countrywide protests.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov wrote on his official Telegram channel on October 8th that “Apple is requesting that we shut down 3 channels used by the people of Belarus” to expose their disapproval of their current government, and “oppressors”. Durov explains that Apple’s concern resides in the publication of personal information of law enforcement and “propagandist” that “may incite violence”.
Durov who has been an outspoken critic of Apple including about its 30% App Store commission rule says that the situation is “not black and white” and that he would rather leave the channels untouched, but that “Apple doesn’t offer much choice” for apps not to comply in such circumstances. He goes on to say that he believes the channels will end up getting blocked on iOS.
A day later after the situation gained steamed in Belarus, Apple issued a statement to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti stating that they only requested the specific personal information to be removed from the channels, instead of the entire channel. The caveat is that the channels are entirely used to reveal the personal information of violent oppressors in Belarus, as Telegram founder Pavel Durov explains:
Apple released a statement saying they didn’t want us to take down the 3 channels run by the Belarusian protestors, but just specific posts “disclosing personal information.“
This sly wording ignores the fact that channels like @karatelibelarusi and @belarusassholes consist entirely of personal information of violent oppressors and those who helped rig the elections – because that is why those channels exist.
By hiding their demands with vague language, Apple is trying to avoid the responsibility of enforcing their own rules. It is understandable: according to this poll, over 94% of Belarusian users think the channels that made Apple worry should be left alone.
Protests have erupted in Belarus after incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected to the Presidency, despite widespread claims that the election was rigged in his favor. The political broil has resulted in mass protests and anti-government movements in the street of Minsk, the capital.
What remains unclear is whether Apple was acting on its own prerogative to take down the personal information from these channels, which would take the whole channels down, or if specific individuals who have had their information revealed reached out to Apple for them to act.
Apple in its statement goes on to state that it had handed over its concerns to the Telegram team who did not object or refuse to cooperate but instead promised to take action. Since Apple’s statement and Purov’s latest comments, there have been no developments on the status of the channels in Belarus.