US technology giant Apple has rubbished a claim by Telegram founder Pavel Durov that the company demanded his Russian-designed messaging app delete entire channels created to dox police officers and election workers in Belarus, RT reported.
Company representatives told Russian website TJournal on Friday that they did indeed contact Telegram, but only to ask its team to remove distinct posts that they believe violate the AppStore’s terms of service. These rules refer to messages revealing an individual’s private data without their consent.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov, now based in the United Arab Emirates, said the previous day that his popular Dubai-based messaging application would have to block three entire channels on iOS devices, which have published the personal information.
However, the Russian tech innovator had promised to keep them accessible on other platforms.
“Apple is requesting that we shut down three channels,” Durov wrote in a Telegram post, describing the accounts as those “used by the people of Belarus to expose the identities of their oppressors.”
The channels have been publishing the personal data of police officers accused of using violence against protesters, but also those of others believed to support President Alexander Lukashenko. This includes members of the election commission, state media journalists, and even administrators of pro-government social media groups.
Durov claimed that Apple has argued that personal information published on these pages could incite violence. The Silicon Valley giant “does not offer much choice,” he went on to say, adding that all three channels in question would end up “getting blocked” on all devices using iOS.
Durov did not hide his disdain for those he described as “law enforcers and propagandists,” saying that he “would rather leave the channels be.” He added that they would still be available on platforms beyond Apple’s reach, justifying his decision by saying the situation “is not black and white.”
Other than revealing personal data, several posts on the channels have included what seemed like threats of violence. One featured a photo of graffiti painted on the entrance to an apartment block where a police officer lives. The graffiti names him and threatens him with a “speedy death.” Another demands that officers “get out of the country before it’s too late.”
The situation in Belarus has been tense since the controversial presidential elections in early August, which handed victory to longtime leader Lukashenko. The opposition refused to recognize the results, arguing that they were rigged. Thousands have been taking to the streets every weekend since then, demanding Lukashenko’s resignation and new “free and fair” elections.
The protests were initially met with a heavy-handed police response, resulting in clashes between the demonstrators and law enforcement agents, which left at least three protesters dead and hundreds of people injured – including police officers. Belarusian citizens are demanding that those responsible for the use of excessive force be brought to justice and the authorities have vowed to launch an investigation.