Secure messaging service Telegram announced on Wednesday it had shut down 78 ISIS-related channels since the deadly attacks on Paris and Beirut, alongside a statement saying the company was "disturbed to learn that Telegram's public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda." This made the situation sound like new information to Telegram -- but that's not the case. At TechCrunch Disrupt in September, Telegram founder Pavel Durov told interviewer Mike Butcher that he knew ISIS used his app (as spotted by The Washington Post). "I don't think we are actually taking part in these activities," Durov said. "I don't think we should be guilty or feel guilty about it." The relevant conversation went down as follows:
MB: "Does it concern you that ISIS is using Telegram?"
PD: "They do."
MB: "Does that concern you?"
PD: "That's a good question."
MB: "Do you sleep well at night knowing terrorists use your platform?"
PD: "That's a very good question but I think that privacy, ultimately, and the right for privacy is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism. If you look at ISIS -- yes, there's a war going on in the Middle East. It's a series of tragic events. But ultimately, the ISIS will always find a way to communicate within themselves. And if any means of communication turns out to be not secure for them, they'll just switch to another one. So I don't think we are actually taking part in these activities. I don't think we should be guilty or feel guilty about it. I still think we're doing the right thing, protecting our users' privacy."
MB: "You think that if they weren't using Telegram, they'd be using something else."
PD: "Absolutely. And even with that, there are open-source apps that you could build that use end-to-end encryption. You could install them -- it's all available. The technology is already there and it's up to us how we would use it."
Clearly, a vast majority of entrepreneurs (and humans) don't want their tech to be used by terrorists to kill hundreds of people -- and Durov's comments at TechCrunch Disrupt do not demonstrate that he is in favor of ISIS. However, his comments are at odds with the statement Telegram released on Wednesday. The company, led by Durov, was clearly already aware that ISIS used its secure messaging services.
Update: Durov reached out to us on Twitter with the following message: "We were disturbed to learn that ISIS began using our PUBLIC CHANNELS, not our service in general. As for ISIS using our service in general, we were also disturbed to learn about it, but long before Wednesday."
Our policy is simple: privacy is paramount. Public channels, however, have nothing to do with privacy. ISIS public channels will be blocked.