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Opinion: Those who want to restrict Telegram make it too easy for themselves

Written by Lukas Steinwandter for Junge Freiheit.

Don't kill the messenger, warned the Greek poet Sophocles. Too often in human history and mythology the messengers have been the bearers of bad news. They were punished or worse. In times of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Co. you could say: Don't destroy the platform!

After the Facebook pig was driven through the media village a few weeks ago, the news service Telegram is now in its sights. Several government politicians , including the new Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) and Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU), have announced a sharper pace compared to the Messenger developed in Russia with around 500 million users per month.

"We have to act more resolutely against agitation, violence and hatred online," said Faeser resolutely. It could not be, Kretschmer emphasized with a view to Telegram, that people were watching "how death threats were spread in their network". The CDU politician demanded: "Otherwise the EU, the federal government, Apple and Android must restrict their use." According to ZDF, death threats against Kretschmer had previously been discussed on Telegram.

The government shares responsibility for polarization
The politicians leave open what exactly is meant by the threatened restrictions. In case of doubt, it is a matter of severe fines or even a ban. Both help the government and harm numerous innocent citizens. Because the majority of Telegram users do not write hateful comments.

A requirement of using the real name of users, as recently demanded by the German Police Union, could also come into play. But that doesn't solve the problem. And yes: death threats and verbal abuse are a problem. But that doesn't go away if the government bans a particular app or restricts it so severely that it is no longer used.

Hate and agitation on the Internet have increased since the corona pandemic, as surveys show. The government shares responsibility for this. With their colossally poor communication, they have noticeably caused frustration and yes: also anger and hatred from the start.

Conventional media also failed in astonishing ways
From the statement “masks don't help” to the requirement to wear a mask; from the announcement that there will be no hard restrictions until the first lockdown; Only a few days passed from the assertion that those who fear compulsory vaccination were taken for granted by conspiracy theorists to the planned legislative initiative.

The big media, especially public service broadcasting, failed in an astonishing way, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of fulfilling their task of keeping an eye on the government, they made themselves at least loudspeakers and public announcement organs of the government, in the worst case the embarrassing claqueurs of the ministers.

And now it is the same politicians and the media who complain of a split and are surprised at angry comments. Just one thought: if the media were to discuss other opinions that deviated more than the ones from the government line, would there be less demand for alternative platforms?

A suspicion arises
And shouldn't prime ministers in a democracy do their utmost to understand the reasons for the polarization and then to bring both sides closer together again with a moderate choice of tone and word? In any case, you should never follow the path of the New Zealand head of government, who proclaimed an absolute and sole claim to truth by the government in the corona pandemic.

In addition, the suspicion arises that Telegram is now being used to crack down on the messenger service, which is known to give those who are excluded in conventional media - or at least feel excluded - a voice and opportunity to exchange ideas. How else can the loud silence of the vast majority of SPD and CDU politicians be explained when acts of violence are celebrated again and death threats are issued on the left-wing extremist scene platform “Indymedia”?

Anyone who switches off a digital platform, whether through a ban or massive regulation, because the opinions expressed there do not suit them, only prove their inability to meet complex challenges with more complex means, but with more sustainable results.

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