The App At The Frontline Of Information Warfare

Users of Telegram’s instant messaging system can communicate and exchange messages (including photos, videos and files of any kind), store correspondence in the cloud instead of on their device, as well as open a private and encrypted chat that is not stored in the cloud. Telegram app users can create groups with up to 200,000 members, as well as public channels.

Its popularity is attributed to the conceptual foundation it is built on -  a trustworthy communication platform that is an alternative to social networks that may be monitored or censored.

"Telegram has become a digital forefront of the conflict, where people are choosing sides online," Oded Vanunu, head of products vulnerabilities research at cybersecurity solutions firm Check Point, said in a statement. "We’re seeing people from all corners of the world organising themselves and resources to support either Russia or Ukraine."

The Russian government is trying to control the news around its invasion of Ukraine. One place its messages can either take hold without fact-checking, or get thoroughly debunked and rebutted, is on messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp. Social media companies like Twitter and Meta have been putting extra measures in place to counter Russia's propaganda machine. Whereas Russia relies on state-affiliated media agencies like RT, Sputnik, TASS, and others, to share the Russian government's version of events. 

Telegram enables Russian citizens to access first-hand information, which includes news and video from the war scene in Ukraine to counter Russian propaganda.

Social networks have increasingly become important in organising social protests in recent years. Using Telegram in 2020, citizens of Belarus were able to organise via the app’s various channels, attend protest demonstrations in person and receive reliable news during censorship.

As a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Telegram is serving as a common communication platform between Russians and Ukrainians, as well as providing real-time data to journalists, international citizens, organisations across the globe, and anyone seeking firsthand information.

Over 60% of Russians have downloaded the Telegram app according to Deloitte, making Telegram more popular in Russia than Twitter and Facebook. As Russian censorship becomes harsher and social networks are blocked, Telegram might become a key player in enabling Russian citizens to receive information from the field, challenging government propaganda.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have created a channel in Telegram app to centralize messages and government guidelines following the outbreak of the Coronavirus epidemic.  Following the Russian invasion, an initiative was organised to change the channel’s subject to politics and is what has happened.

As a result, it became the main channel for reporting the war’s events, as well as a reliable source for Ukrainian citizens and other interested parties. The app, which allows users to participate in group conversations and send direct messages that cannot be traced by third parties.

However, Telegram has also become a hub of misinformation, according the Check Point.  They also identify how fraudsters are using emotions surrounding the crisis to their advantage in asking for funds for the Ukrainian people and advises users to be suspicious of requests from unverified groups organising such requests.

Check Point:    Telegram Analytics:    Fox Business:    Euronews:   I-HLS:     Wired

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