Telegram has a serious doxing problem

Influential Burmese, Han Nyein Oo rose to prominence in 2020, posting memes and rumors about Burmese celebrities on Facebook to an audience that grew to several hundred thousand people in Myanmar by early 2021. Then after the military the country’s team took power in February of that year, he veered to the right, becoming a staunch supporter of the military, having killed more than 1,500 people and arrested thousands more in bloody crackdowns.

He was soon banned by Facebook for violating its terms of service, so he turned to Telegram, the encrypted messaging app and social sharing platform. There, he posted pro-military messages, graphic photos of murdered civilians, and erotic pictures allegedly purporting to be of female opposition figures. Often, they are cross-posted on other channels run by a network of pro-military influencers, reaching tens of thousands of users.

This year, Han Nyein Oo turned to direct threats. Opponents of the government planned to mark the anniversary of the coup on February 1 with a “silent strike”, closing businesses and leaving the streets deserted. On his Telegram channel, Han Nyein Oo went on a rampage, asking his followers to send him photos of stores and businesses that were contemplating closing. They required it, and he started posting pictures and addresses to his 100,000 followers. Dozens of facilities were raided by police. Han Nyein Oo announced his recognition. He did not respond to a request for comment.

“It was the beginning of the doxing campaign,” said Wai Phyo Myint, a Burmese digital rights activist. “Since then, there’s been an escalation.”

Over the past eight months, the Telegram channels of Han Nyein Oo and that of other pro-coup figures, including self-proclaimed journalist Thazin Oo and influencers Kyaw Swar and Sergeant Phoe Si, have deceived hundreds of people. who they accuse of siding with the resistance range from celebrities to small business owners and students. Dozens of people have been arrested since then or killed in vigilant violence.

Han Nyein Oo’s channel was taken down in March after it was reported for violating Telegram’s rules on the dissemination of pornography, but within days he had started another activity. It currently has more than 70,000 followers.

Telegram’s doxing problem extends far beyond Myanmar. WIRED spoke with activists and experts in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe who said the platform ignored their warnings of a pandemic due to political action, allowing content dangerous content increases, leading to intimidation, violence and death.

In a Telegram message, company spokesperson Remi Vaughn said: “Since its launch, Telegram has actively moderated harmful content on its platform — including the publication of personal information. . Our moderators actively monitor the public parts of the app and accept user reports to remove content that violates our terms.”

Telegram, which has more than 700 million active users worldwide, has a publicly stated philosophy that private communications should be out of reach of governments. That has made it popular among people living under authoritarian regimes around the world (and among conspiracy theorists, anti-rights advocates, and “sovereign citizens” in the United States). democratic countries).)

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