EU Eyes Telegram User Numbers As It Nears Regulatory Threshold


European Commission says in contact with Telegram as platform nears 45 million user threshold for stringent DSA rules

The European Commission is scrutinising Telegram’s user figures in the bloc as it nears a key threshold for inclusion under stringent new rules for the largest online media platforms, a spokesperson for said.

Telegram said it had 41 million users in the EU in the six months to February, lower than the 45 million that would categorise it as a very large online platform (VLOP) under Digital Services Act (DSA) rules that went into effect earlier this year.

A spokesperson for Telegram confirmed that it has fewer than the key 45 million mark.

The Commission spokesperson said regulators were examining Telegram’s metholdology for counting users, were continuing to monitor developments and were in touch with Telegram and liaising with digital service coordinators.

Image credit: European Commission telegram
Image credit: European Commission

Soaring user base

Dubai-based Telegram, which is wholly owned by founder Pavel Durov, a Russian expatriate, has come under increasing scrutiny as its user figures soar.

The platform, which is operated by a staff of only about 50 people, has more than 900 million users and is likely to pass 1 billion users within a year as it is spreading like “forest fire”, Durov told Reuters last month.

The platform includes channels that users can follow as well as encrypted messaging.

The platform is a haven for Russian disinformation which spreads “openly and completely unchecked”, Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas told Bloomberg in a Monday report, which said Commission regulators were in talks with Telegram over how to define the platform.

The DSA includes stringent obligations about removing illegal content and disinformation, and allows regulators to impose heavy fines.

Independent assessment

Kallas has called on the Commission to carry out an independent assessment of Telegram’s EU user figures.

Telegram told Bloomberg the platform isn’t effective for spreading disinformation because it doesn’t rely on algorithms, adding that the company is working on a tool to allow national fact-checking agencies to add verified information to relevant posts.

Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta Platforms, Microsoft, AliExpress, Snap, Pinterest, TikTok and Zalando are among 18 online platforms currently designated as VLOPs.