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Spain’s High Court halts temporary suspension order of Telegram’s services

#UPDATED on Monday 15 March at 20h.

A Spanish judge on Monday halted his controversial order to temporarily suspend messaging app Telegram in the country pending a police report on the company (see original report below).

The judge requested more information on the characteristics of the app, as well as information on the impact that the temporary suspension would have on users. 

The National Court revoked the blocking of the app considering that it would be an ‘excessive and disproportionate’ measure.

Original full report below:

Spain’s High Court has ordered the temporary suspension of messaging app Telegram’s services in the country, after media companies complained that it was allowing users to upload their content without permission.

The use of Telegram in Spain will be temporarily suspended from Monday after a request by media firms including Atresmedia, EGEDA, Mediaset and Telefonica, in a case alleging violation of intellectual property.

Judge Santiago Pedraz of the Audencia Nacional agreed to block Telegram’s services in Spain while the claims are investigated. It will be the responsibility of mobile phone providers to block Telegram’s services, the court said.

The judge issued the order after officials in the Virgin Islands, where Telegram is registered as a business, failed to respond to a July 2023 court request for information.

In Friday’s order, the judge said it was the lack of cooperation that had led him to take this ‘precautionary measure’. The order met the principles of ‘necessity, appropriateness and proportionality’ he added.

‘No other measure exists that can stop a repeat of the actions denounced,’ he argued.

Consumer rights group Facua criticised the ruling as disproportionate, warning it would cause ‘enormous damage’ to millions of users of the platform.

‘It is as if they shut down the internet because there are websites that illegally host content protected by copyright,’ said Facua’s general secretary Rubén Sánchez in a statement.

Facua expects Telegram to be progressively blocked ‘in the coming hours or days’, as telecom companies are obliged to accept the court order. The investigation is due to last a maximum of six months, until 29 September.

Telegram, created in 2013 by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, is an encrypted messaging platform that also allows users to set up their own channels to broadcast content. It is the fourth most-used messaging service in Spain, according to competition watchdog CNMC. It was used by nearly 19% of Spaniards surveyed by CNMC.

The company says that in 2023 it had more than 700 million monthly active users worldwide.

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