Germany fines Telegram over missing complaint mechanism

Germany has fined messaging app Telegram €5 million for failing to set up channels for users to report illegal posts.

A smartphone with the Telegram logo.
A smartphone with the Telegram logo. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

“The internet is not a lawless space. Criminal content like death threats must also be prosecuted on the internet. Among other things, platforms are duty-bound to provide an appropriate complaint system,” wrote the interior ministry in a tweet on Tuesday.

Under German regulations, online social media are required to offer channels for users to flag up potentially criminal content.

The media are also required to remove illegal content and report it to police.

Telegram has come under scrutiny in recent years as extremists have increasingly turned to the app to spread hate or even death threats.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the app was used by some anti-vaccine protesters to share false information and to encourage violence against politicians.

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How German authorities are cracking down on Google

Germany's antitrust regulator on Wednesday criticised the way Google handles users' data and threatened action against the US tech giant.

How German authorities are cracking down on Google

Data collected by Google was used to “create very detailed user profiles which the company can exploit for advertising and other purposes”, the Federal Cartel Authority said.

Based on a preliminary assessment, the watchdog determined that users were not given sufficient clarity on the “far-reaching processing of their data across services” by the tech company.

“General and indiscriminate data retention…  is not permissible” without giving users choice, the watchdog said.

The Federal Cartel Authority was therefore “currently planning to oblige the company to change the choices offered”, it said, adding that it expected to issue its final decision this year.

READ ALSO: Germany asks EU to rein in Twitter after ‘arbitrary’ bans by CEO Musk

“Google’s business model relies heavily on the processing of user data,” said the authority’s chief Andreas Mundt.

The digital giant had “access to relevant data gathered from a large number of different services” which meant it enjoyed “a strategic advantage over other companies”, Mundt said in a statement.

Google said in a statement it would continue its “constructive dialogue” with the Authority “in order to address their concerns”.

The warning comes after Google was classified as a company of “paramount significance across markets” in 2021.

The designation gives Germany’s regulators the option to intervene earlier against potentially uncompetitive practices by huge digital companies.

Wielding the new legislation, the watchdog has also opened probes into US tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook.

At the end of last year, the regulator shelved a separate investigation into Google’s News Showcase service, after the firm made “important adjustments” to ease competition concerns.

Big tech companies have been facing increasing scrutiny around the globe over their dominant positions as well as their tax practices.   

In July 2022, the European Parliament adopted the Digital Markets Act to curb the market dominance of Big Tech, with violators facing fines of up to 10 percent of their annual global sales.