BKA boss Holger Münch in October 2020: "Medium of radicalization"
Photo: POOL / REUTERS
At the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), a task force on Telegram started work on Wednesday.
It is intended to identify and prosecute suspects who spread threats, insults or calls for murder via the platform.
Telegram is increasingly "developing into a medium of radicalization," as the BKA explained in a press release on Wednesday.
“The corona pandemic in particular has contributed to people radicalizing themselves on Telegram, threatening others or even publishing calls for murder,” said BKA President Holger Münch on Wednesday.
"We strive to work with Telegram, but we also take action if Telegram does not cooperate," says Münch.
Telegram has not yet responded to inquiries from German investigative authorities and rarely actively deletes content itself.
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The new task force is also likely to be a reaction to Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser's ongoing criticism of Telegram and the public debate surrounding the messenger.
Faeser had already emphasized in December that she wanted to increase the pressure to investigate criminals who use Telegram and repeatedly criticized Telegram for evading German laws.
In June, DER SPIEGEL revealed that Telegram was not responding to a letter from German legal authorities seeking to force Telegram to comply with the Network Enforcement Act.
(Read more about what German politicians can do against Telegram here.)
When asked, the Federal Criminal Police Office did not want to provide any information about how many investigators should be part of the task force or how many prosecution positions are planned on Telegram.
BKA has had Telegram in its sights for a long time
The new BKA task force is to work closely with the police authorities of the federal states and the Central Office for Combating Internet Crime (ZIT) of the Frankfurt am Main Public Prosecutor's Office.
It is also intended to determine the extent to which Telegram cooperates with German authorities, reacts to deletion notices on criminal content and publishes data.
Based on this survey, it could be easier for politicians to prove possible fundamental misconduct by Telegram.
Even if the Federal Criminal Police Office presented the initiative presented on Wednesday as a new project, the BKA has known the problems surrounding Telegram for some time.
For example, in 2015 the BKA investigated right-wing terrorists who discussed attack plans on Telegram.
The trial revealed that even the Federal Public Prosecutor did not know a Telegram address to reach the company for data requests.