Belgium to be responsible for European regulation of Telegram

Belgium to be responsible for European regulation of Telegram
Credit: Belga

Belgium will now be responsible for regulating messaging application Telegram, De Standaard reported on Monday.

The task of regulating Telegram has fallen under the responsibility of The Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT).

Founded by Russian-born billionaire Pavel Durov in 2013, the application boasts nearly 900 million users worldwide (40 million in Europe alone) and has been on the European Commission's radar ever since the Digital Services Act (DSA) came into force. The platform is known for its highly-encrypted chats and minimal cooperation with authorities.

BIPT is awaiting its official designation, which spokesperson Jimmy Smedts says will be announced in the coming days. Its appointment will require ratification by Belgium's Federal, Flemish, Walloon and German-speaking parliaments.

Enforcing order

Telegram is notorious for facilitating the buying and selling of illegal drugs as well as the spread of far-right and other extremist ideologies. The sticking point is the fact that these chats are inaccessible to governments, as the app was created with the intention of protecting free speech.

Durov created the platform after leaving Russia in protest of media crackdowns. The founder wants the platform to remain geopolitically neutral and is reticent about any form of regulation for this reason.

It is hoped that BIPT's new role will rectify this situation. "Suppose someone in the Netherlands is in a Telegram channel calling for violence against a synagogue or mosque, and sends a notification to Telegram but finds that nothing is done about it. They [will be able to] file a complaint with BIPT," said Mathias Vermeulen of data rights organisation AWO. Telegram risks a penalty if it fails to comply with the BIPT's subsequent ruling.

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