Telegram, the free zone for disinformation and conspiracies
An investigative team of journalists from 13 countries including think tank analyzing pro-Russian disinformation Debunk.org spent six months closely following the spread of disinformation, propaganda and alt-right opinion on social and other internet networks in Europe. The ecosystem for radicalization of opinion, influencing public debate and destroying democratic values, has moved from social networks to a more hidden communication tool.
Telegram has some elements of a social network, using channels and groups. Designed to provide anonymity and able to reach hundreds of thousands of readers, Telegram became the “go to” tool for Russian propagandists, both left-wing and right-wing radicals, American QAnon and conspiracy theorists.
Telegram is now a covert conduit through which disinformation and conspiracies flow throughout Central and Eastern Europe and beyond.
Investigative journalists in a Firehose of Falsehood team project analyzed almost 18,000 Telegram accounts (channels and groups) with impact mainly in Central and Eastern Europe to find out how users are interconnected.
czat bez ograniczeń czasowych:
This is a chat group for the channel with the same name. People are sharing links to disinformation content.
The topics are generally anti-European and anti-Ukrainian.ROMANIANSERBIANSLOVAK
|Account Name||Members||Account Info||Comments|
|Ален Симеонов||11692||https://www.patreon.com/alensimeonov Контакт: @alensimeonov14||Member and founder of the far right pro-Russian nationalist structure “Community with ideals”
close to Vazrazhdane nationalist and Pro-Russian party
|Bulgarian Military Union “Vasil Levski”||11444||Официален канал на Воински Съюз Васил Левски, съдържащ информация за дейността на организацията,
професионални анализи и изчерпателни новини от цял свят, каквито няма да откриете в никоя българска медия. За
|Paramilitary nationalist and pro-Russian organization named after the Bulgarian national hero Vassil Levski
who never had such opinions. Официален канал на Воински Съюз Васил Левски, съдържащ информация за дейността на
организацията, професионални анализи и изчерпателни новини от цял свят, каквито няма да откриете в никоя
българска медия. За контакти: BGMilitaryUnion@gmail.com
|Svobodnik||6083||За да живеем и творим свободно е необходимо да сме сигурни, че страната, в която живеем ще може да ни го
осигури. Имаме шанс да извоюваме правото да живеем в свободна и мирна България!
|Pro-Russian channel amplifying the president’s Rumen Radev statements that Bulgaria should not help
Ukraine to avoid being involved in the war. Свободна и мирна България<
|Za ПраVдa🇧🇬||4856||Канала е създаден да обедини другата гледна точка, различна от продажните медии, финансирани и спонсорирани
от Америка за България, ЕС и НАТО! Можете да подкрепите с BTC.
|Anti-American channel claiming it will oppose the media getting grants from America for Bulgaria foundation.|
|Възраждане||4724||🇧🇬 Официален канал на партия Възраждане. 🌐 www.vazrazhdane.bg||Nationalist and pro-Russian political party official channel 🇧🇬 Официален канал на партия
|Ivan Pernar||17188||Neodgovorni, sebični i zatucani antivakser Ako vas zanima naša chat grupa na telegramu, uđite
https://t.me/PernarChat Ako me želite osobno kontaktirati ovo je moj profil t.me/ipernar
|The channel of Ivan Pernar, former Croatian MP and former leader of populist party Živi zid. Outspoken
opponent of vaccination. Croatian fact-checkers at Faktograf caught him spreading disinformation on social
|Logično||10333||Portal Logično – Istinom protiv laži||The channel of Logično, a Bosnia and Herzegovina portal that covers ex-Yugoslav countries and its diaspora.
Its content was debunked many times by Croatian and Bosnian fact-checkers.
|SLOBODNI podcast||7510||CENZURIRANO možete naći ovdje||Slobodni podcast was launched by Croatian entrepreneur Andrija Klarić whose claim to fame is opening a gym
in 2021 despite Covid-19 measures. Content Klarić shares on Facebook is often marked by the social network as
false or partially
|Epoha||5050||Dobro došli na službeni T-kanal redakcije portala Epoha||The channel of Croatian portal Epoha which shares false information, according to regional fact-checkers. It
is one of 16 Croatian portals on the local disinformation landscape.
|Slobodni ZAjedno||3593||Sloboda nije kad čovjek čini sve što želi, nego kad ne mora činiti ono što ne želi.
|The channel of the association Slobodni Zajedno (Free Together), which opposes measures against the spread
of Covid-19. The channel shares links from websites identified by the Firehose of Falsehood project as
|Absurdní svět||23767||Pokud chcete podporit moji praci, preklady a zpravy: 123-4977710207/0100 KB UVEDTE pouze slovo DAR. Predem
|The operator of this channel is unknown. It provides translations of news from around the globe. The sources
of the information are unclear. The channel’s stance appears to be pro-Russian.
|CZ24.NEWS||23476||Možnosti jak číst blokovaný web cz24.news najdete zde v připnutém odkazu
PODPORA PROJEKTU –
KONTAKT: Přes kontaktní formulár na www.cz24.news
|This channel is associated with the largest Czech-Slovak conspiracy and disinformation website, which
compiles articles from numerous sources.
|Otevři svou mysl||18764||The channel is linked to a prominent Czech website that primarily focuses on anti-vaccination conspiracies,
but also covers a range of other topics.
|neČT24||14746||Zpravodajství pro ty, kteří používají zdravý selský rozum.
|The operator of this channel remains unknown, but it has been previously promoted by the Russian state
agency Sputnik. The channel shared manipulated videos during the Czech presidential campaign.
|Selský Rozum||12219||Kanál Selský Rozum je agregátorem zpráv z telegramových kanálů. Hledáme, překládáme a zveřejňujeme názory
lidí, kteří jsou součástí aktuálního dění. Kontakt: @selskyrozum_bot
|The operator of this channel is unknown. It provides translations of news from around the globe. The sources
of the information are unclear. The channel’s stance appears to be pro-Russian.
|reitschuster.de||252722||Offizieller Kanal von Boris Reitschuster||Boris Reitschuster once was a journalist with the German weekly news magazine Focus. He is now one of the
main figures in the alternative media landscape in Germany. A lot of his content focuses on Covid-19.
– Die Schatzkammer des Wissens –
|Vivoterra is a company registered in Switzerland. The person who says he is running it is Andre Blank. On
Telegram it shares a number of hallmarks with other channels of the disinformation ecosystem, such as
conspiracy theories, alt-right content, Covid-19 disinformation and Russian disinformation.
|AUF1||242018||Alternatives, unabhängiges Fernsehen
|This is the Telegram channel of the alt-right online TV channel AUF1TV (see text)|
|Eva Herman Offiziell||195599||Offizieller Kanal von Eva Herman – Nur diese beiden Kanäle sind ein Projekt von
|Eva Herman is a known figure on the German alt-right scene. Her Telegram presence shares a number of
similarities with other channels of the disinformation ecosystem, including conspiracy theories, alt-right
content, Covid19-disinformation and Russian disinformation.
|Freie Medien||157620||Wir bringen die Stimmen, Infos und Meinungen der alternativen Medien zensurfrei auf eine Plattform &
setzen Impulse. Prüft & recherchiert bevor ihr glaubt.Kontakt:
|This is a mishmash of all sorts of conspiracy theories, alt-right content and Russian disinformation.|
|Ocalić życie||29661||Cenzura jest każdej że stron.Będę tu wrzucał ważne info .Mam nadzieję że przyczynię się w minimalnym stopniu
dla dobra ludzi.Przedewszystkim nie szkodzić
|The channel is a mix of very different disinfo streams in Poland. It shares conspiracies on various topics
(Polish internal affairs, anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian narratives).
|Niezależny dziennik polityczny||12246||nasz czat: https://t.me/ndpczat
nasza strona internetowa: dziennik-polityczny.com
Portal ma na celu bezstronne informowanie o wydarzeniach z Polski i świata, tak, żeby
każdy mógł wyrobić własny punkt widzenia
|Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny has been reported to have links to Kremlin influence operations.|
|❤️Anielskie Siostry Jasnowidzki©||14396||Jasnowidz terapeuta duchowy, odcinanie karm, klątw, bytów, oczyszczanie energii ciała, duszy i pola serca,
wprowadzenie na wysokie wymiary duchowej ścieżki, odnajdywanie dusz zmarłych przodków, odganianie duchów itd.
|Shares conspiracies about Poland, Ukraine and EU countries.|
|Świat Kryptowalut||12930||Kanał edukacyjny na temat rynku kryptowalut przekazana w prosty i zrozumiały sposób.||Channel claims to be educating people about cryptocurrencies.|
|Academia de Tăurași / #UkraineRussiaWAR edition||52150||⚠️ Info in timp real din Ucraina momentan. Verificate în peste 70 de surse OSINT.
Grupul a fost
|This channel is not relevant for our analysis, but is the biggest. Provides information related to the war
in Ukraine. Takes a stand against Russia’s actions.
|VERITAS❌NECENZURAT 🇷🇴||26139||The biggest disinformation channel. Heavily promotes conspiracy theories, pro-Russian narratives, anti-US
and anti-NATO messages.
|Susținători George Simion||12330||The channel (in English: Supporters of George Simion) shares the same post as the Facebook page of the
leader of the Romanian far-right party AUR and circulates Russian propaganda narratives and conspiracy
theories. A recent poll shows Simion’s party ranks third with Romanian voters.
|Dan MV Chitic necenzurat||11985||The channel of lawyer Dan Chitic, one of the first promoters in 2019 of ROEXIT (Romania’s exit from the
EU). The channel spreads conspiracy theories and pro-Kremlin narratives. Chitic is praised by Sputnik in
hundreds of articles.
|ActiveNews România||11210||The channel belongs to one of the major disinformation websites in Romania, according to the Firehose of
Falsehood investigation. IIt shares common themes with Russian propaganda and promotes conspiracy theories
|Dejan Beric||87376||Само ажурне информације са прве линије.
Званични канал Дејана БерићаOnly
relevant information from the battle front line.
Official channel of Dejan Beric
|The largest Telegram community in Serbia, extremely pro-Russian. Channel is owned by Dejan Berić, a
pro-Russian Serbian soldier who fought for the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic and is currently in charge of
recruiting Serbian volunteers for the Russian army. The content is mostly warfront reports with videos and
photos, with a common narrative about Russian progress and defeats of “the enemy”. Claims are in
general unverifiable. Content from this account feeds many similar pro-Russian accounts that republish its
content. Berić also has a very popular YouTube channel that publishes videos from military camps in the
warzone with new volunteers recruited from Serbia. According to Serbian law, participation on foreign
battlefields is a criminal offense, as is the recruitment of volunteers.
|БУНТ је стање духа||68708||Број 1️⃣ Телеграм канал на Балкану.
Наши канали на Телеграму
Поштована браћо и сестре, уколико желите да подржите рад БУНТ-а,
|Content is a mixture of pro-Russian and Serbian nationalistic propaganda. There are unverifiable or biased
reports about Russian progress on the front. Uses Russian official sources or often none identified. There are
also reports and opinions about the situation in Kosovo, Republika Srpska and Montenegro, with predominant
Serbian nationalistic narratives. This channel presents Serbian war history as glorious and convicted war
criminals as heroes. Presents conspiracy theories such as the Rockefellers ruling the world. In February 2022
this group was under police investigation in Montenegro because of calls for violence in Montenegro. There are
no public updates available on this. This channel’s content is often being reshared across similar Serbian
nationalistic Telegram channels.
|ИСТОЧНА БУДУЋНОСТ||38868||Наша будућност је на Истоку||Content aims to push the narrative of the East as superior to the West. The channel name is “Eastern
Future”. Posts glorify Russia and its victories on the front. Portrays Serbia with Kosovo within its
borders. Praises countries like China, Iran and Venezuela. Runs negative posts on Croatia, Albania, Ukraine,
USA and western EU countries. Often bias in headlines; Croats derogatorily called “Ustashas” or
|Борбени Ефективи Телеграм-канал||35017||Датум оснивања 24.10.2019 Званични сајт http://www.bog-rata.com/||Almost exclusively content about Russian military strategies, weaponry, progress on the front. There are
either Russian official sources for these claims or no sources at all. Very often claims are unverifiable.
Also Serbian nationalistic content, focused on glorification of Serbian military forces and war history.
|ИСТОЧНИ ФРОНТ||27644||Новости и дешавања у свету.
Чет соба: t.me/+8cI2bX3BpTliNzRk
|Predominantly uses unverifiable reports from the front favorable to Russia. Also posts about countries such
as China. Like other popular Telegram groups, it is not exclusively pro-Russian content, but more a site for
|Danny Kollar||55395||Najhladanejsi internetovy slovensky extremista pocas Matovicovho rezimu a Lipsicovej judikatury, zijuci v
V sucasnosti pod 3. europskymi zatykacmi.
komentator.Vedieť je zbraň. Vyzbrojte sa. Ste vo vojne.
|The biggest Slovak channel on Telegram for a long time. It is managed by Daniel Bombic, who goes by the
pseudonym Danny Kollar. Three arrest warrants have been issued against him, supposedly related to extremism,
cyberbullying, and publication of sensitive data.
|InfoVojna||43540||🎙Radio||One of the biggest Slovak disinformation sites. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the National
Security Office blocked the site for months because of its problematic content.
|Ľuboš Blaha||33377||poslanec NR SR a podpredseda Smeru||Pro-Russian member of the Slovak Parliament from the SMER party. In the past, he was one of the most
successful politicians on Facebook, where he also spread various misinformation and attacked his political
opponents. His profile was shut down by Meta last year due to repeated violations of its rules. Since then, he
has been using Telegram.
|Slovensko NEWS-FRONT.INFO||31123||Slovak version of the pro-Kremlin disinformation portal NewsFront. Became popular after outbreak of the war.|
|Casus Belli Live||24742||Wars – Conflicts – Weapons – Geopolitics
|A show on the Slovak disinformation website Slobodný vysielac.|
According to statistics, Telegram is the third largest communication platform after WhastApp and Messenger. It is used by just over 700 million users worldwide. The company does not provide information on the number of users in each country, but according to Stata report and others, Telegram is not just the network of Russia and Ukraine. Europe accounts for a full fifth of its users, with at least 21,3 % of Germans and 46.5 % of Italians already using it.
In addition to messaging, distant millions of users can set up groups and channels similar to Facebook groups and pages. Telegram does not provide information on how many personal accounts, channels and groups there are in and how big they are in countries outside the post-Soviet area. The largest server with statistics on Telegram channels and groups, Russia’s TGStat, reports that it has data on more than 1.2 milion groups and channels, the vast majority from post-Soviet countries.
For Germany, TGStat only offers data on approximately 900 channels and groups. But as our analysis showed, there are at least 7,000 active groups and channels in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
What is Telegram
Telegram is a communication platform, similar to WhatsApp or Messenger, with some features of a social network. It has over 700 million users. Its founders are brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, who originally hail from Russia but are now based in Dubai. Pavel Durov is the sole owner of Telegram and his fortune is estimated at $11.5 billion. Pavel Durov is sometimes called the Russian Zuckerberg because he was the founder of the VKontakte network with Ilya Perekopsky. But after state pressure, he sold his shares in 2012.
Most of Telegram’s users are located in Russia, Ukraine and other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. One of its main advantages is the encryption of communication and anonymity of users. In groups, the user’s phone number is not visible, a privacy protection. Telegram has become a popular source of information about the war in Ukraine and protests in Belarus and Iran. People share news and photos that they could not safely post elsewhere.
Due to its lack of content monitoring, Telegram has also become a popular communication channel for extremist and terrorist groups. Despite this, Telegram is still a popular choice for many users, especially those who want control over their data and privacy, and the number of users is expected to exceed 1 billion this year.
The team of Firehose of Falsehood journalists created a catalog of Telegram channels from over 13 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, including Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Latvia and Lithuania. In every country, some of the most popular Telegram channels and groups are part of the broader disinformation ecosystem, either by being associated with the alt-right scene or with pro-Kremlin groups or anti-vaxxers.
Telegram is the largest functional platform for disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe, mostly free of public or law enforcement attention. There are exceptions like in Germany, but without any significant results. (See Telegram’s statement in response to our questions below the article).
In the German-speaking countries where Telegram is widely used, nearly a quarter of a million users subscribe to the far-right channel AUF1 TV (Alternatives, unabhängiges Fernsehen – Alternative, independent television).
AUF1 is an online TV channel with origins in the Austrian alt-right movement. Since its creation, it has been prominently featuring known alt-right figures such as Jürgen Elsässer and politicians from the German right wing populist party AFD (Alternative für Deutschland) . AUF1TV’s Telegram channel has grown from 70,000 users in mid-2021 to a quarter of a million in early 2023. The rapid growth of AUF1 is aided by the entire network of ‘alternative’ media referring to each other and promoting each other’s content.
In February 2022, KommAustria, an Austrian media regulator, described the content of AUF1 as “violating the standards according to Austrian media law” and started an investigation. The Austrian interior ministry, asked about AUF1TV in late 2022 by the German public broadcaster ARD, confirmed: “Due to the broadcaster’s choice of topics, it can be assumed that there is a certain influence on extremist or conspiracy theorist audiences. To date, however, no unconstitutional or criminal content could be detected.”
If the Austrian regulators decide to shut down the online TV channel, AUF1TV might still keep its audience via its Telegram channel, over which the government won’t have much oversight or legal authority.
In Poland, Ocalić życie (Saving Lives), which spreads QAnon-related conspiracies among other content, reaches almost 30,000 subscribers. More influential channels in spreading Russian propaganda include Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny and News Front Polska, with previously reported links to Kremlin influence operations. Their websites were blocked by Polish authorities when the war in Ukraine broke out. Since then, our investigation finds, they have been actively developing their presence on Telegram, gaining hundreds of new subscribers monthly.
In the much smaller Czech Republic, the Absurdni svet (Absurd World in English) channel was similar in size to the Polish Ocalić Życie. The content linked to a number of German sites, including the German version of RT (Russia Today) and the German version of the Russian disinformation site News Front. The Telegram channel CZ 24 NEWS has almost 23,000 subscribers, and belongs to one of the largest Czech-Slovak conspiracy websites. The audience for many of these channels grew when Czech internet authority CZ.NIC blocked some pro-kremlin websites after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. .
In Slovakia, the largest Telegram channel reporters analyzed is a well-known representative of the far right, Danny Kollar, with more than 50,000 followers. Similarly influential is the channel of Infovojna (43,359 subscribers), a disinformation server that spreads the content and narrative of the Russian News Front. The Slovak version of the News Front has over 31.000 subscribers.
In Hungary, the biggest channel of the disinformation server Orosz Hírek (Russian News) has 15,000 fans. The largest Serbian Telegram channel is the personal channel of Dejan Beric, a Pro-Russian Serbian soldier who fought for the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic and is currently in charge of recruiting Serbian volunteers for the Russian army. His channel has over 86,000 subscribers. In neighboring Bulgaria, one of the largest channels is Bulgarian Military Union “Vasil Levski” with over 11,000 subscribers. The channel is run by paramilitary organisation linked to Russia.
In addition to regional channels defined by language and state, there are also transnational channels. The project reporters analyzed how content is shared between almost 18,000 Telegram channels and groups.
Online website Disclose.tv, is a far-right site operating from Passau, Germany. This channel’s posts are the most frequently shared in the largest number of countries. Reporters found 21 countries or languages in which posts have been shared, including Poland, Germany, Czech Republic and Croatia.
The channel with the second-most shared posts in different countries is SGTnewsNetwork. There is not much public information on the channel, which mostly disseminates content related to the US alt-right conspiracy scene.
The channel with the third-most shared posts in different countries is LauraAboli’s channel, which belongs to the co founder World Check intelligence platform used by due diligence companies and the 2020 founder of the United Democratic International Movement for Awareness and Freedom. The channel promotes content focused on so-called “vaccine truth” and questions if Covid existed at all. It features video content from the US alt-right media. Links to other fat-right sites such as www.zerohedge.com, www.theepochtimes.com, www.disclose.tv and www.breitbart.com are also frequently shared.
All these channels are in English but the countries of origin are different. In addition, German language channels and groups seem to play a major role in spreading disinformation, alt-right and conspiracy content .
The most shared content of the German-language channels shared abroad were mostly from the disinformation, conspiracy and alt-right scene:
|uncut_news||Uncut-News.ch “Das Original”🇨🇭||Nachrichten, News, Infos und vieles mehr 🤓 Powered by uncut-news.ch
EN: News, information and much more 🤓 Powered by uncut-news.ch
|FaktenFriedenFreiheit||Fakten Frieden Freiheit||Wenn du meine Arbeit unterstützen und Kontakt zu mir haben möchtest, dann komm gerne in die Insider Gruppe ANONYME ALUHÜTE @AnonymeAluhueteBot DANKE
EN: If you want to support my work and contact me, feel free to join the insider group ANONYME ALUHÜTE @AnonymeAluhueteBot THANKS
||🚨Unzensiert V2🚨||Unzensiert Ersatzkanal 1 @unzensiert_infoseite Nachrichten aus aller Welt – unzensiert @unzensiert ist ein Non-Profit Kanal 🤜🏻Partnerkanäle🤛🏻 @Aufwachen @DokuKiste
EN: Uncensored replacement channel 1 @uncensored_infopage News from around the world – uncensored @uncensored is a non-profit channel 🤜🏻Partnerkanäle🤛🏻 @wakeup @DokuKiste
|GHZFriedrichMaik||Informationen für das GHZ Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Herzogthum Pommern und das Königreich Preussen Preussen||Aktuelle Informationen über die Großherzogthümer und das Königreich Preussen Preussen sowie weltweite Geschehnisse
EN: Current information about the Grand Duchies and the Kingdom of Prussia as well as world events
|Haintz||Markus Haintz 🇩🇪||Nachrichten und Einschätzungen zum aktuellen Weltgeschehen.
EN: News and assessments of current world events.
|macklemachtgutelaune||Mäckle macht gute Laune||126.720|
|QlobalChange||Qlobal-Change 🇩🇪🇦🇹🇨🇭🇱🇮 🤝 🇳🇱||https://qalerts.app 📨 @QC_Kontakt_Bot 2️⃣ @Qlobal_Change 🇺🇸 @QlobalChangeUSA 🇮🇹 @QlobalChangeItalia 🇪🇸 @QlobalChangeEspana 🇵🇹 @QlobalChangePortugal 🇫🇷 @QlobalChangeFrance 🇳🇱 @QlobalChangeNL 🎦 @X22_Report_Deutsch ▶️ https://odysee.com/@Qlobal-Change:6||118.995|
|russlandsdeutsche||🇷🇺 Russländer & Friends 🇩🇪||Kanal für Russländer und Russland-Freunde Hier findet ihr: – News um Russland auf Deutsch – Einen Platz für Freunde Russlands, Russländer und Russlanddeutsche
EN: Channel for Russians and friends of Russia. Here you can find news about Russia in German. A place for friends of Russia, Russians and Russian-Germans.
|technikus_news||@TECHNIKUS🇦🇹NEWS🇩🇪||Willkommen auf unserem Technikus News Kanal! Hier bekommen Sie regelmäßige Updates zu den wichtigsten Themen des Tages.
EN: Welcome to our Technikus News Channel! Here you will get regular updates on the most important topics of the day.
|Vivoterra||Vivoterra||www.vivoterra.com – Die Schatzkammer des Wissens
www.vivoterra.com – The treasury of knowledge.
|AnonymousSchweizOrginal||ANONYMOUS – SCHWEIZ 👔||Anonymous-Schweiz@mailfence.com 👆Kontakt: We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us. 🕊🇨🇭👔 #OpNewWorldOrder #InfoSec #OSINTResearch #Infowar||33,675|
|Auf1tv||AUF1||Alternatives, unabhängiges Fernsehen www.auf1.tv
EN: Alternative, independent television www.auf1.tv
No other Telegram accounts from EU countries we studied play such an important role in spreading extreme views as German Telegram channels and groups.
So the growing activity of German language disinformation seems to have a major impact on a large European audience. Articles from German disinformation websites are widely shared by other alternative websites in Central and Eastern Europe, and so are posts from their Telegram channel. The impact is hidden radicalization of the European disinformation ecosystem that has so far escaped the attention of the public.
The Firehose of Falsehood project is coordinated by the Czech investigative website Investigace.cz in cooperation with VSquare.
List of journalists participating in the project:
Josef Šlerka, Investigace.cz, Czech Republic
Anna Gielewska, VSquare, Poland
Anastasiia Morozova, Frontstory, Poland
Anja Vladisavljević, Oštro, Croatia
Hrvoje Perica, Oštro, Croatia
Katarina Bulatović, Oštro, Slovenia
Iulia Stănoiu, Context.ro, Romania
Karin Kõváry Sólymos, ICJK, Slovakia
Marija Vučić, KRIK, Serbia
Atanas Tchobanov, BIRD.BG, Bulgaria
Márton Sarkadi Nagy, Átlátszó, Hungary
Zalán Zubor, Átlátszó, Hungary
and many others.
Special thanks to Petra Blum, WDR and Palina Milling, WDR
We asked Telegram a few questions about its operations:
1) Our analysis shows that Telegram is heavily used to disseminate disinformation, conspiracy theories and extremist content, including content from sites sanctioned by the EU and other countries (e.g. RT, News-Front). What is your comment?
2) What measures are you taking to prevent harmful content from being spread on Telegram?
3) Have you been aware of allegations that a lot of harmful and dangerous content which has been removed by the big social media platforms such as Meta has then reappeared on Telegram, because it’s perceived as having lower standards?
4) Do you have protocols and procedures in place similar to the big social media platforms (Meta, Twitter, YouTube)? If yes, which protocols and procedures do you have in place to ensure the safety of the Telegram service?
5) Do you remove content under certain circumstances? If yes, what are the rules and procedures for removal on Telegram?
Here is the full text of Telegram’s response:
Unlike other platforms, Telegram does not use algorithmic feeds to recommend content to users. As such, content with unverified sources is unable to reach users who don’t actively seek it out.
Telegram is a unique source of independent information that is otherwise suppressed. For example, Russians can access news outlets banned by the Kremlin, like Meduza (@meduzalive), BBC Russian (@bbcrussian), and Dozhd (@tvrain), as well as channels of prominent figures and politicians like Alexander Nevzorov (@nevzorovtv), Mikhail Khodorkovsky (@khodorkovski) and President Zelensky (@V_Zelenskiy_official).
Telegram is also a key platform for news from Ukraine for users around the world, with verified channels like Ukraine NOW (@UkraineNow), The New York Times (@nytimes) and Financial Times (@financialtimes) broadcasting the latest updates.
Telegram is abiding by EU sanctions by blocking access to the channels of RT and Sputnik for EU-based users. While any user can set up a small stream or channel on Telegram, our team receives a notification when it gets a noticeable number of views or subscribers so that it can be examined.
Calls for violence are explicitly forbidden by Telegram’s Terms of Service. Our moderators proactively monitor public-facing parts of our platform and accept user reports in order to remove such content.
If you have found posts calling for violence on our platform or accounts trying to circumvent EU sanctions, I would greatly appreciate it if you could provide links to it so that our moderators may investigate.
For our research, we used a variety of methods to identify Telegram accounts in Central and Eastern Europe. Initially, we used data from Ahrefs for our search, followed by Google Custom Search, data from CrowdTangle, and TGstat. Using the Telethon library, we downloaded the content of the Telegram channels and groups that we discovered, and then analyzed their content. We extracted several pieces of information, including the names of other groups and channels whose posts were shared. We repeated this “snowballing” method multiple times, eventually collecting data from 17,749 channels and groups (ranging from a few dozen posts to several thousand). We used machine learning algorithms to analyze their content, including their language, links, and posts shared from other channels and groups.
Our catalog included 7,700 German-language accounts, 800 in Polish, 548 in Czech, 366 in Slovak, 281 in Serbian, 192 in Romanian, 185 in Bulgarian, 159 in Hungarian, 128 in Croatian, plus accounts in other languages. However, it is important to note that our catalog may not provide a complete representation of the number of Telegram channels and groups operating in Central and Eastern Europe.
Data was collected between December 2022 and March 2023.