The comments section of BlazeTV host Elijah Schaffer’s Telegram channel has been blocked in the app store versions of Telegram on Android and iOS.
Users that attempt to view Schaffer’s comments section in the App Store or Play Store version of the Telegram app are presented with a message that states: “Unfortunately, this group couldn’t be displayed on your device.”
Schaffer’s comments section is now only available via Telegram’s desktop app, the non-Google Play version of Telegram’s app, and Telegram’s web app.
The message doesn’t explain why Schaffer’s comments section is being blocked in these mobile apps and Schaffer insists that his Telegram comments section is moderated and that his team follow all the terms of service. However, similar messages have been displayed in other channels when Telegram has been forced to block content to comply with Apple and Google’s restrictive app store rules.
Telegram allows a much wider range of speech on its platform than Apple (which has removed an estimated 190,000 apps from its App Store) and Google (which has removed thousands of apps from its Play Store) but will sometimes block content in mobile apps to keep them available in the App Store and Play Store.
The censorship of Schaffer’s comments section and the previous censorship of other Telegram channels at the behest of Apple highlights how these tech giants are able to leverage their mobile operating system and app store duopoly to censor content and discussions on mobile which is now the main way people access the internet, accounting for an estimated 55% of all internet traffic.
Apple and Google have a staggering 99% share of the mobile operating system market. While it is possible for Android and iOS users to access content outside of Apple and Google’s app stores, hundreds of billions of apps are downloaded via these app stores each year and they drive huge amounts of traffic to alternative platforms such as Telegram. On iOS, web apps are also restricted and don’t have access to important system level features such as notifications.
Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov has called out Apple and Google directly over the way their mobile duopoly threatens freedom, describing the situation as users being “held hostage by tech monopolies that seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users” and likening Apple forcing app developers to censor in-app content to “a web browser deciding which websites you are allowed to view.”
Many other apps have had similar experiences to Telegram with alternative social media platform Minds, video sharing app LBRY, and non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace OpenSea among those that have been forced to restrict features or censor content to remain in Apple and Google’s app stores.