Germany explains why it may slap Telegram with fines

German authorities accuse the messenger of becoming a safe haven for online hatred, calls for violence, and conspiracy theories

Germany’s Federal Justice Ministry has started two investigations against the Telegram messenger service, the ministry’s spokesperson told journalists on Monday, adding that the messenger might face fines. It stands accused of failing to designate a representative the German authorities can contact.

Earlier, the German DW broadcaster reported, the fines might amount to up to €55 million ($61.78 million).

According to Die Welt, Telegram has drawn the German authorities’ attention by becoming a safe haven for conspiracy theorists and hate preachers. The messenger also allegedly provided a platform for people sharing “disinformation, hate speech and repeatedly murder calls,” targeting such politicians as Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer or Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Soeder, the paper reported.

Read more

Telegram threatened with removal from app stores in EU country

“The Covid-19 pandemic has in particular contributed to people radicalizing themselves on Telegram [by] threatening others and even publishing calls for murder,” the president of the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), Holger Muench, told journalists last week.

The developments reportedly prompted the federal government to make fighting hate speech on Telegram one of its priorities. Germany’s Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said on January 20 that the messenger “operates like a social network,” but fails to comply with relevant German legislation aimed at combating hate speech and fake news on the social networks.

In an interview with the Donaukurier Ingolstadt newspaper, the minister also admitted that the German authorities had so far failed to contact the messenger since it had not named a contact person for Berlin. Buschmann said, at that time, that Berlin might try reaching Telegram by publishing its demands in the official Federal Gazette or raising the issue at the EU level.

Last Friday, Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser mulled “switching off” the messenger in Germany by Easter as a last resort if all other options prove to be unsuccessful, but quickly added that it was not her goal to get rid of the messenger service.

READ MORE: WhatsApp, Signal & Telegram banned by Swiss Army

The German government’s goal is to make Telegram delete content Berlin deems illegal. “We aim to work with Telegram, but we will also take action if Telegram does not cooperate,” Muench said.

Telegram has so far not commented on the developments.

Truckers blockade US-Canada border

Alberta dispatched heavily armed police to break up ‘unlawful’ protest

Authorities in the Canadian province of Alberta have dispatched heavily armed police units to disperse the blockade of a border crossing with the US state of Montana by truckers disgruntled with Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

Scores of Canadian truckers blocked the border crossing between Coutts, Alberta and Sweet Grass, Montana over the weekend, as thousands of their colleagues descended on the Canadian capital of Ottawa to picket the parliament.

On Monday afternoon, surrounded by special units of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the truckers prayed and decided to open one northbound lane for local traffic and let anyone who wishes to leave do so, but voted to stand their ground. One of them vowed the “only way I’m leaving is in a [police] cruiser.”

READ MORE: What Canada truckers’ ‘Freedom Convoy’ is all about

Police are “not willing to negotiate,” one of the truckers told the outlet Rebel News, adding that by opening a lane, they were technically complying with a provincial law passed in 2020 to crack down on indigenous rights activists.

UPDATE: truckers speak after decision to stand their ground.

More at

— K2 (@kiansimone44) January 31, 2022

According to Coutts Mayor Jim Willett, about 100 trucks were blocking Highway 4 on the Canadian side, causing a miles-long backup on Interstate 15 in Montana. About 50-100 trucks have reportedly been stuck on the US side since Saturday. 

The blockade is a protest against US and Canadian governments mandating that truckers must be “fully vaccinated” against Covid-19, which came into effect on January 15.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who is in Washington, DC for a meeting of US governors, denounced the blockade on Sunday as “causing significant inconvenience for lawful motorists” and insisted it “must end immediately.”

The blockade of the Coutts border crossing violates the Alberta Traffic Safety Act.

It is causing significant inconvenience for lawful motorists and could dangerously impede movement of emergency service vehicles.

This blockade must end.

My full statement: ⬇

— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) January 30, 2022

Kenney, a member of the United Conservative Party, also joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – a Liberal – in condemning the “Freedom Convoy” that drove across Canada last week and parked outside the parliament in Ottawa, demanding an end to vaccine mandates.

Read more

Trudeau reappears to denounce ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers

Trudeau claimed that he will not give in to “those who fly racist flags” or “engage in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans,” insinuating that an unidentified man photographed with a Nazi flag and three protesters who climbed onto the National War Monument disqualified the entire movement.

Kenney has said that the Coutts protest violates the Alberta Traffic Safety Act. Truckers have countered that opening up a lane for local traffic technically makes them compliant with both ATSA and the 2020 Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, passed after indigenous rights activists blockaded railways.

However, Mayor Willett told reporters on Monday morning that the RCMP was “getting impatient.”