It may have to be banned if it continues to prove popular with far-right groups and people opposed to pandemic-related restrictions continues to violate German law, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in remarks published on Wednesday.
“We cannot rule this out,” she told Die Zeit weekly. “A shutdown would be grave and clearly a last resort. All other options must be exhausted first.”
She added that Germany was discussing with its partners in the European Union how to regulate Telegram.
The messaging app has grown partly because it is one of the easiest ways to use an encrypted chat service, with messages protected from snooping as they are sent between users. It also offers a system of groups that allows for messages to be broadcast quickly.
But those same features have proven controversial, as they have allowed criminals and other groups to organise away from law enforcement.
In Germany the platform is seen a source for conspiracy theories and hate speech, especially as the country has grappled with the Covid pandemic. It seen as a major platform for anti-lockdown activists.
There has been strong resistance to vaccination among a minority of Germans. The latest figures show 72 per cent are “fully vaccinated”. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has backed calls for a vaccine mandate and MPs are expected to begin debating a bill later this month.
Germany is not alone in potentially seeking controls on Telegram. Bans and regulations exist in a variety of countries, from China to India and Russia. Those governments often point to criminal and problem content being spread on the platform to justify the blocks.
Additional reporting by agencies