Telegram blocks Palestinian propaganda channels for iOS users


Users of Apple’s iOS ecosystem were blocked this week from accessing several Telegram channels used by Palestinian groups for propaganda, including the channels for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) military wing, the spokesperson for that wing, and the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The move likely came under pressure from Apple itself, which controls the App Store, through which almost all third-party software for iOS is accessed. The move comes after a similar block on Android devices, which affected two Hamas channels and three PIJ and PFLP channels earlier this month. 

The now-blocked channels had been used to share videos of kidnappings and killings of Israeli civilians and IDF forces.

Telegram has served as one of the central platforms for Hamas, its supporters, and other Palestinian terrorist groups to publish statements and propaganda, especially since the October 7 massacre.

In a November poll of Jewish Israelis, 73% of respondents said they had joined or downloaded Telegram since the war began.

An alert on Telegram stating that Hamas’ official channel cannot be displayed on the Google Play Store version of Telegram. October 24, 2023 (credit: screenshot)

Channels remain unblocked for desktop users

The channels are all still available online or when using Telegram on a PC. The messaging platform itself takes a libertarian approach to speech, and its CEO, the Russian-born, Dubai-based Pavel Durov, has previously cast doubt on the wisdom of banning Hamas channels, citing warnings to Israeli civilians about oncoming attacks that he said could be damaging to censor. 

“Unlike other apps,” Durov said at the time, “that algorithmically promote shocking content to unsuspecting people, on Telegram, users receive only the content to which they specifically subscribed,” arguing it is “unlikely that Telegram channels can be used to significantly amplify propaganda.

“Instead, they serve as a unique source of first-hand information for researchers, journalists, and fact-checkers.”