“They wanted to tie me and my kids to the horse.”

It started with joy, but turned into horror. And all because of the abuse sent by one user of one of her hometown’s major apps.

“When I saw his picture from the orphanage, he wore such ridiculous clothes,” recalls Ekaterina Florova.

“I immediately knew that this boy shouldn’t stay in the system. He would never be understood there.”

Cosmetologists on the volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East have always wanted adoption. When she finally met the baby, their bond was instant. He raised his hand and snuggled up to Ekaterina’s hug, as if he knew her forever.

After that, a coronavirus occurred. Ekaterina wanted to share her happiness and relieve her loneliness by creating an Instagram profile specifically for her new son.

However, a “cozy page” where she was filled with baby photos led to her being maliciously attacked by a group of Telegram messaging apps.

According to the attacker, what is her sin? Adopt a mixed-race child.

Prejudice and hatred

Telegram, which attracted 500 million users, is owned by Russian asylum-seeker Pavel Durov. Primarily a messaging app, its distinctive feature is called a “channel”, which allows an individual to broadcast to an unlimited audience.

As a result, and also refusing to share user data with the government, Telegram has become world-famous as the perfect app for coordinating global protests from Belarus to Iran and Hong Kong. It has also been accused of not doing enough to wipe out the radical channels run by so-called Islamic State groups and those involved in the Capitol Hill riots.

Earlier this year, it instantly became the most downloaded non-gaming app in the world.

However, in Russia, the home country, there are claims that rampant misogyny by some users on the platform is endangering the lives of women.


Telegram gained popularity after WhatsApp announced changes to the terms

The Dubai-based app management team did not respond to repeated requests for comments.

Silent moderator

“They told me that blacks haven’t lived in Russia for too long,” Ekaterina told me how a member of a Telegram channel launched a campaign against her.

She says she received hundreds of abusive messages every day.

She said she threatened to tie her child and her to a horse and put the horse on the road, or “tie it to two cars driving in opposite directions and tear it apart little by little.”

But the most terrifying thing was when the details of her workplace were made publicly available to everyone.

Ekaterina explains that the founders of the Men’s National Channel are posting about women who have relationships with black men, or women in the Caucasus.

He publicly publishes racist and misogynistic content, but Ekaterina says he couldn’t get a response from Telegram’s moderators. The founder of the channel did not respond to the BBC’s interview request.

Ekaterina is not the only woman who says that a Russian-speaking group using Telegram sent them an abusive message.

Activists, models, and much less prominent women are all reported to be prey to the self-proclaimed moral crusade.

For almost four years, a channel called Skin Market regularly published personal information about women who claimed to have worked as escorts, such as addresses and passport photos, to more than 250,000 followers.

Although eventually banned earlier this year, there are still many similar channels on the platform.

Moscow-born feminist activist Dalia Serenko has published a photo of her home by a group of Telegram, who says she was followed.

Her personal information was released after she campaigned to support female political prisoners.

Serenko compared her situation with the situation of police officers whose details were published on another channel after a January protest in favor of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“Violence against women is tolerated,” said Serenko, who said the information was deleted three days later.

Digital security advisor Raphael Mimoun has branded the “Wild West” channel “without moderation”, like the channel allegedly used to persecute women in Russia.

Telegram does not yet have a strong user base in the United States, but it is gradually attracting people in the United States as well.

“Secret group”

Professor Megan Squire posted some of her personal information on the far-right channel of Telegram in the United States.

A computer science instructor at Elon University in North Carolina specializes in studying hatred groups and toxic behavior on social media.

In the process of her work, she says she saw “many instances” of personal phone numbers and home addresses of various activists on the platform.

She reports them all to Telegram and says she hasn’t received a response.

She also resigned to the fact that, legally, there isn’t much she can do.

“The app is running in another country. The group is secret. Anyway, many of this are protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.”

Professor Squire says that while all major platforms attract this type of content, Telegram isn’t doing the right thing “what the average person simply calls content moderation.” say.

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