Apple sued for offering Telegram in App Store despite alleged hate speech, extremist behavior

Non-profit accuses Apple of violating California business code

A non-profit advocacy group has slapped Apple with a lawsuit for failing to remove Telegram from its App Store despite the app allegedly allowing hate speech and extremist or illegal behavior, court papers show.

The Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for a Safer Web has accused Apple of allowing “Telegram to be distributed through the App Store knowing that Telegram does not comply with Apple’s developer guidelines and … is routinely used to violate California’s hate speech law,” according to the complaint filed Sunday in the Northern District of California.

An Apple spokesperson did not respond to FOX Business’ request seeking comment.

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The coalition has allegedly tried bring “the real and imminent dangers of Telegram to the attention of Apple” on several instances, according to the suit.

In June 2020, a CSW press release described “a torrent of extremist incitement, notably antiemetic and anti-African American content on Telegram,” stemming from White supremacist/Neo-Nazi communications” following the May 25 death of George Floyd, court papers show.

A second release that same month detailed “representational evidence that Telegram is serving as a communications channel for the Russian government and affiliated Neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups, sowing misinformation and racial division in the United States and in Europe, with the goal of provoking African American-on-Jew violence,” the lawsuit states.

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CSW’s president, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg, later sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook regarding the matter.

In this Thursday, June 13, 2019, file photo, the website of the Telegram messaging app is seen on a computer's screen in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The coalition is accusing Apple of negligent infliction of emotional distress and violating California’s business code.  The lawsuit seeks for the court to prohibit Apple from allowing Telegram to be available on its website.

The lawsuit describes how Telegram is being used “to coordinate and incite extreme violence” in the days leading up to Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, including an event scheduled for Sunday.

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The app was also allegedly used to send messages in the days following the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol Building.

“One Telegram message on a far-right channel called ‘Boogaloo Intel Drop’ told followers to ‘get a feel for your local area and get your friends together,’” the suit states. “The message encouraged other Telegram users to find other Telegram users to find others who are outraged about the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a police officer while storming the Capitol.”

Other examples of illegal use include a post that offers LSD, cocaine pills and acid for sale.

The Telegram app had been downloaded from the App Store roughly 6 million times worldwide as of December and boasted a 4.3-star rating based on more than 106,900 ratings, the lawsuit states.

A Telegram spokesperson told FOX Business the company’s moderation team “is constantly monitoring public activity on the platform, processing reports from users as well as proactively removing public calls for violence.”

“Telegram enforces its Terms of Service consistently all over the world, from Hong Kong to Belarus. In January, over 3,000 public communities were banned for violating the company's 'no calls for violence' policy globally,” the statement reads.

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It continues: “Less than 6% of the calls for violence around the world that were taken down in January were related to events in the U.S. Overall, less than 2% of Telegram’s monthly active users are from the United States.”

Telegram's moderation team blocked 182 U.S. linked public communities “from disseminating calls for violence” between Jan. 6 and Jan. 14 alone, according to the spokesperson.

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The Telegram spokesperson added that Telegram “was created by people who had to leave Russia because of restrictions on freedom and privacy.”

“Apple has clearly defined policies and guidelines prohibiting applications such as Telegram from being used in such a manner yet chooses not to enforce those policies and guidelines,” the lawsuit states.