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Coalition sues Apple for treating this app differently than it did Parler

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A little over a week ago, Apple and Google removed conservative messaging app Parler from the Google Play Store and the App Store. The app was banned from both app storefronts because of accusations that the platform was used to incite violence in the states. The bans came on the heels of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Parler could be welcomed back to the App Store if it promised to follow Apple’s Terms of Service. Parler CEO John Matze says that he doesn’t know when or if Parler will give in to Apple’s demands meaning that the app might never return to the App Store.

Lawsuit accuses Apple of going too easy on messaging app Telegram

On the other side of this story is a lawsuit filed against Apple today by Ambassador Marc Ginsberg and the Coalition for a Safer Web (CSW). The suit was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and charges Apple with failing to remove messaging app Telegram from the App Store. The plaintiffs say that Apple knows that “Telegram is being used to intimidate, threaten, and coerce members of the public.” Some of the rioters may have used Telegram to coordinate and plan the attack. A CSW press release from last June says that Telegram is being used as a “communications channel for the Russian government and affiliated Neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups, sowing misinformation and racial division in the United States and in Europe.”

The Coalition says that it is a “non-partisan, not-for-profit advocacy organization” created to force tech firms from removing terrorist content from social media sites. The Coalition claims that Apple is failing to follow its own policies and guidelines regarding app content in relation to Telegram. This means that Telegram’s most violent users get to continue threatening others through the app. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial, compensatory payments to each plaintiff, and an injunction preventing Telegram from being listed in the App Store until it complies with Apple’s regulations.

The suit states that “anti-black and anti-Semitic groups have openly utilized Telegram with little or no content moderation by Telegram’s management.” And even with warnings from the CSW, Apple “has not taken any action against Telegram comparable to the action it has taken against Parler to compel Telegram to improve its content moderation policies.” The suit adds that Telegram could be used to “coordinate and incite extreme violence” before this Wednesday’s inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden. “Some users have called on followers to abandon plans for a second protest in Washington in favor of surprise attacks nationwide,” the lawsuit says.

Ambassador Ginsberg has held many positions including White House liaison for the Secretary of State,  Deputy Senior Advisor to the President for Middle East Policy, United States Ambassador to Morocco, and more. He has survived a pair of assassination attempts and the suit points out that he is forced to “live in apprehension of religiously motivated violence being perpetrated against him.”

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs accuse Apple of being selective when it decides which apps it will enforce its rules on. It points out that Apple removed Fortnite and Parler from the App Store for failing to live up to the App Store’s ToS. Meanwhile, CSW says that Telegram has “not undertaken any meaningful actions to curb these flagrant, systematic, and continuous violations of Defendant’s app guidelines by Telegram users.”  Telegram is accused of violating several App Store rules since it first launched on the App Store in 2013.

Apple and Telegram have had some battles in the past. For example, In 2018, Apple pulled the app temporarily because of the presence of child pornography on the site. That same year Russian regulator Roskomnadzor demanded that Apple stop downloading Telegram because the latter’s  developer failed to hand over encryption keys to the Russian government as required under Russian law.

Coalition for a Safer Web V… by Mike Wuerthele

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