Content note: The following post contains references to homophobia and heterosexism.
Telegram must protect LGBTQ+ people from hate and violence on its platform, and set a new standard of upholding and promoting human rights in its business practices.
Access Now supports the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, a Belarusian human rights organisation and a trusted partner, in its appeal to Telegram to block channels and materials that demonstrate violence against, and hate speech towards, LGBTQ+ people.
“This is not the first time civil society has been forced to publicly appeal to Telegram in an attempt to persuade the tech giant into addressing its dismal human rights practices,” said Anastasiya Zhyrmont, Regional Outreach Coordinator (Eastern Europe and Central Asia) at Access Now. “LGBTQ+ people have a right to use Telegram not only without being the targets of hate, but with the knowledge their rights are important and will be upheld.”
The open letter highlighted the case of Nikolai Bredelev, a spokesperson from Belarus’ A1 telecommunications company, whose arrest by Belarusian authorities was accompanied by their publishing an offensive video containing sensitive personal information about his private life. The video was proliferated by state-owned Telegram channels, and encouraged abusive posts and comments from other users based on sexual orientation.
Belarusian human rights activists reminded Telegram of its obligation to mitigate human rights impacts in accordance with the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and to adhere to clear content governance policies. The necessity to design and implement transparent content governance frameworks and human rights and due diligence policies was also raised by Access Now and a coalition of civil society organizations in a joint letter to Pavel Durov last September.
Access Now welcomes the prompt reaction by Telegram admins to address channel owners who then deleted the dangerous material, and pushes the company to revise its historical approach of remaining silent when human rights issues are addressed by civil society actors, and, instead, seize this opportunity to protect the rights of the 500 million people who use the platform.