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Somalia Orders ISPs to Block Telegram and TikTok

Officials said the apps were used to "spread horrific content and misinformation to the public."

A group of people holding the logo tiles for social media apps over their faces
Source: Luiza Nalimova via Alamy Stock Photo

The Somali government recently announced plans to shut down access to some social media platforms, including TikTok and Telegram.

Jama Hassan Khalif, Minister of Communications & Technology, announced via his Twitter account that the intention was to "safeguard the morals and culture of our society." The order was issued on Sunday, Aug. 20, and the country's Internet service providers had until Thursday, Aug. 24 to comply. Against the backdrop of terror and extremist groups using Telegram to engage in secure communications, Khalif said the ban comes because the platforms "have had a detrimental impact on our youth and have been misused to harm many individuals in recent years."

Cybercriminals also use Telegram for their operations, including for selling phishing kits as well as for training phishers, according to Kaspersky researchers.

A report by Reuters said users trying to access the blocked apps receive a statement that reads: "You are being directed to shut the above-mentioned applications, which terrorists and immoral groups use to spread horrific content and misinformation to the public."

Khalif said the intention to block access was due to the spread of explicit content, blackmail, and the promotion of gambling — with online betting app 1XBet also set to be blocked, according to We Are Tech Africa.

TikTok has been banned on moral grounds in a number of countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

Fernando Montenegro, senior principal analyst at Omdia, says he is sure there would be businesses that rely on apps like Telegram and would be affected by the ban.

"We see the business case for messaging applications like Telegram varies — while I don't often see it as an official communication channel, it can be useful as out of band communications, which can be useful in scenarios — nefarious or not — when main comms are down."

Statistics show 8% of Telegram's users are based in Middle East and North Africa. With 700 million users globally, this equates to over half a million users.

About the Author(s)

Dan Raywood, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

With more than 20 years experience of B2B journalism, including 12 years covering cybersecurity, Dan Raywood brings a wealth of experience and information security knowledge to the table. He has covered everything from the rise of APTs, nation-state hackers, and hacktivists, to data breaches and the increase in government regulation to better protect citizens and hold businesses to account. Dan is based in the U.K., and when not working, he spends his time stopping his cats from walking over his keyboard and worrying about the (Tottenham) Spurs’ next match.

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