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Telegram surpasses WhatsApp in Russia and gets banned in Brazil, all in one week

The news: Telegram is making headlines for its brief ban in Brazil and rapid growth in Russia—but there are reasons why it lags behind as a marketing vehicle for brands.

Russian rise: Telegram has surpassed WhatsApp as Russia's most popular messaging app, per Russian telecom Megafon, with Russians flocking to the service as their government tightens restrictions on social platforms.

  • Telegram's share of mobile internet traffic increased to 63% in the first two weeks of March from 48% in the first two weeks of February, per Megafon data.
  • WhatsApp's market share has plummeted from 48% to 32% as prosecutors sought to label its parent Meta as an “extremist organization.” It’s not the first time Telegram has grown because of missteps by WhatsApp.
  • Russian authorities have actively promoted Telegram as they have banned other foreign platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Telegram users consume 101 MB of data each day on average, compared with 26 MB for WhatsApp users.

Shortest ban ever? After Brazilian government institutions were unable to reach Telegram for months, the service was banned in the country last Friday. That’s when CEO Pavel Durov responded and apologized for missing court emails. (Really, that was the excuse).

  • Over the weekend, Telegram acted rapidly to comply with court demands, including deleting confidential information on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's account and nixing the account of a political supporter accused of spreading misinformation.
  • Telegram implemented other modifications to combat disinformation, including promoting verified material and flagging misleading posts.
  • The messenger app is the fastest-growing platform in Brazil, where it is installed on 53% of mobile phones, according to government officials.

More on Telegram:

  • Founded by Durov, a Russian, in 2013, the messaging service has long been a popular news platform in Russia.
  • The platform, which surpassed 1 billion users last fall, has traditionally taken a hands-off attitude to content on its app. That has endeared it to right-wing users who contend that their views are suppressed on other social platforms.

Chaos agent: For many brands, Telegram is still the Wild West.

  • Germany is clashing with Telegram over efforts to track down threats of political violence.
  • The Anti-Defamation League has cited disturbing amounts of hate speech on Telegram directed at Black and Jewish Americans.
  • Telegram’s lack of default end-to-end encryption could prove to be a major problem, particularly for Ukranians during the Russian invasion.
  • Brands—especially multinationals—may be concerned about investing time and resources into a platform that could be taken offline in a major market just because the CEO didn’t read his email.