Bill Clinton’s former ambassador to Morocco and his Coalition for a Safer Web NGO have made good on a recent promise to sue Google in a bid to force the giant to remove the Telegram messaging app from its store.
Previously, Marc Ginsberg and his outfit sued Apple, hoping for the same outcome. The precedent that Ginsberg wants Google and Apple to now affirm is the one set when Parler, an independent and free-speech oriented competitor to Twitter, was removed from both stores after the Capitol Hill events.
At the time, Amazon’s cloud hosting service AWS also banned Parler, in a clear attempt to take it offline completely. Now, lawsuits like the ones seeking to “deplatform” another app, this time Telegram, suggest that there is appetite in some corners to make removal of entire apps and platforms instead of individual users and content a new model of censorship.
Like in the filing against Apple, Ginsberg cites content found on Telegram (whose features, beside direct messaging, also include public communities) as promoting and coordinating violence, extremism, racism, and antisemitism. After all, if Parler could be effectively destroyed because “a number of its right-wing users expressed support for the siege and further violence” as one report put it – why not make this a policy?
And Ginsberg clearly spells out this is what he has in mind, when he accuses Google of not yet having taken any action against Telegram like it did against Parler.
However, he stops short of calling for the destruction of Telegram – saying instead the lawsuit’s goal is to force the app to better censor content.
Legally, online service providers in the US are protected from direct lawsuits for user content thanks to the provisions of Section 230; but as the action taken by Google, Apple, and Amazon has shown, tech behemoths can still decide and find ways to punish smaller players on the internet precisely for third-party content – while their own social networks like YouTube continue to fully enjoy Section 230’s protections.
As for Ginsberg’s lawsuit, neither Google nor Telegram had anything to say about it immediately in the wake of the news of its filing.