Skip to main content

Apple wants Telegram to remove pro-democracy posts related to the Belarus election. But it doesn't want people to know.

Telegram Messenger
Telegram Messenger (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz/iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has told Telegram that it needs to delete some messages because they have personally identifiable information in them.
  • Apple doesn't want Telegram to tell anyone why they've been removed, either.
  • All this relating to a Belarussian election that some claim was rigged..

There's a bit of a storm brewing between Apple and instant messaging app Telegram with the former telling the latter that it needs to remove some posts because they have personal information in them – information that could identify people said to have helped rig an election in Belarus. And it won't let Telegram tell anyone why the posts have been removed, either.

Jon Gruber does an excellent job of explaining the situation.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has been writing about a controversy that I think is fairly summarized as follows: Pro-democracy protestors in Belarus have been using Telegram to (among many other purposes, of course) post information about those who stole the recent election for President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Apple asked Telegram to delete certain posts on the grounds that the posts revealed personal information contrary to App Store rules for "user generated content".

The problem is, Apple won't let Telegram tell users why the posts have been removed.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has been writing about the farce.

Previously, when removing posts at Apple's request, Telegram replaced those posts with a notice that cited the exact rule limiting such content for iOS users. However, Apple reached out to us a while ago and said our app is not allowed to show users such notices because they were "irrelevant".Similarly, when Facebook wanted to inform its users that 30% of the fees users were paying for online events went to Apple, Apple didn't let Facebook do it saying this information was (once more) "irrelevant".I strongly disagree with Apple's definition of "irrelevant". I think the reason certain content was censored or why the price is 30% higher is the opposite of irrelevant.

None of this is simple, of course. But regardless of the actual removal of the posts themselves and whether Apple should be dipping into Telegram like this, the fact Apple doesn't want to be on the hook for it is crazy.

Gruber again:

I've said it before and will adamantly say it again: it is prima facie wrong that one of the rules of the App Store is that an app is not allowed to explain the rules of the App Store. I'm hard pressed to think of an exception to this conviction, not just on Apple's App Store, but in any sphere of life — whether a harmless game or the administration of the law.

The man has a point.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.