Telegram's founder and CEO Pavel Durov has just released a statement explaining why the service has been suspended by Brazil's Supreme Court, and the explanation is astonishing. It was because his company was verifying the wrong email address, according to the message, which you can read in full below or on Durov's Telegram channel.
"It appears that we had an issue with emails going between our telegram.org corporate addresses and the Brazilian Supreme Court," Durov writes, adding that his company requested that future takedown demands be sent to "a dedicated email account." But the court didn't do that; instead, it continued to use "the old general-purpose email address," and Telegram somehow missed them, and now it's being banned, unless the court shows mercy.
The corporation claims to have located those emails (implying that the old address was at least functional, which makes it even more weird that the emails were somehow overlooked) and is working with the court to resolve the matter. The ban has a lot of political context, which arises from allegations that Telegram aids the spread of disinformation, as my colleague Adi Robertson explains in this report. But, according to Telegram, the whole affair boils down to a problem we all have: keeping track of emails.
It appears that emails sent between our telegram.org business addresses and the Brazilian Supreme Court had a problem. As a result of this misunderstanding, the Court ordered that Telegram should be banned for being unresponsive.
I apologize to the Brazilian Supreme Court on behalf of our team for our blunder. We could have done a much better job.
We cooperated with a previous court order in late February and suggested that future takedown requests be sent to a designated email address. Unfortunately, our response must have been misplaced, because the Court attempted to contact us again using the previous general-purpose email account.
As a result, we missed its early March decision, which included a follow-up takedown request. Fortunately, we were able to locate and process it, and we delivered another report to the Court today.
Because tens of millions of Brazilians use Telegram to communicate with family, friends, and coworkers, I ask the Court to consider delaying its decision for a few days at its discretion, so that we can address the situation by appointing a representative in Brazil and establishing a framework to respond quickly to future pressing issues like this.
For the world and Telegram, the previous three weeks have been unparalleled. Multiple parties approached our content moderation staff with requests. However, I am confident that if a trustworthy communication route is established, we will be able to process takedown requests for public channels that are illegal in Brazil quickly and efficiently.