The Spanish National Court banned Telegram (right before the Catalan elections)

David Garcia
5 min readMar 25, 2024
Brazil electoral court could ban Telegram app for not fighting fake news

Last Friday (22nd March 2024) in the evening, a Spanish High Court (called “Audiencia Nacional” or “National Court” in English) decided to ban Telegram in Spain.

According to the “official information”, this seems to be a temporary measure while they run an investigation. The trigger for this action seems to be that some users shared paid content through public channels.

Many of the International Press Media have already posted news about this ban. Here is an example from Reuters, but there are more online:

The funniest point is that Spanish broadband and mobile data providers have not censored the messaging app — yet (on Sunday, the 24th, in the afternoon, when I wrote this article) — even with the courts' requirement.

The reasons for not blocking it under the court requirements and timings are unknown — or it might just be a matter of timing — (again, when I wrote this article), but it is well-known that the court requirement violates national and European laws. Several attorneys and civil organisations have announced their intention to bring this case to the EU Courts (starting today, Monday the 25th).

From a tech point of view, the decision to ban Telegram seems not only unfortunate but also unreasonable. Still, it looks like a political movement rather than the official version shared through local Spanish media. Why?

Online piracy is a fact. There’s no need to deny it. If you have Internet access, you have surely looked for music, videos, software, and games. Everyone has surely done this at least once.

It would be easier to unplug the Internet cable and leave the whole country disconnected so no one can look for and download any content, assuming the real case is to fight online piracy.

However, such measures would also affect genuine purchases from product and service providers (like the FT, the NYT, Netflix, Disney+, Steam, Epic Games and more) in the same way that it can/will affect many personal and business flows that rely on Telegram technology.

Additionally, this kind of censorship is usually associated with authoritarian regimes (Russia and China are two recent cases, and citizens worldwide need VPNs to access censored content or communications).

However, Spain is part of the EU and NATO, which means certain actions cannot be done without consequences or their authorisation.

Furthermore, several political and consumer organisations have announced their intention to bring this unprecedented Spanish censorship measure to the European Courts.

According to the Reuters article shared above, “only” 20% of Spain’s population uses Telegram. According to other (local) media that we can browse online, it is up to 40%.

Spain’s population is 48.5 million (according to Wikipedia), which means between 9.7 (20%) and 19.4 million citizens (40%) use Telegram. This Telegram usage is for personal messaging between family and friends and business communications, given the flexibility and tools that Telegram has offered to Software and DevOps Engineers to integrate several procedures, monitoring, and alerts with their messaging App.

This means the judge who ordered the ban doesn’t understand what technology means, implies, or even operates in the country and worldwide.

Blocking Telegram will greatly and severely impact many personal and professional communications.

The previous two points lead to the political decision I mentioned earlier, which is now more important than ever, even if the Spanish authorities try to deny or hide it.

Spain suffers from the most significant political crisis (since Franco’s dictatorship). Catalonia’s History is much older than Spain’s (because Spain didn’t exist when Catalan counties already existed). Catalonia also has a pro-independence movement (since 2013 under the name Via Catalana or Catalan Way) that has used messaging apps like Telegram to reach many citizens.

In 2017, there was an attempt to become an independent state, not part of Spain, but political leaders didn’t fulfil the process (actually, it was called “procés”), and they were jailed by Spain’s Supreme Court. Some of the Catalan leaders were forced to go into exile to fight against Spain, and the (false) charges given the repeated violation of UN Human Rights, EU Human Rights, UNESCO’s Kirby Definition, UN accusations of arbitrary detention, and many more led by Spain’s government and courts.

Now, there are early elections scheduled for 12th May 2024 in Catalonia. With a potential Amnesty Bill (backed up by the Venice Commission) “to reconcile national unity” between the Spanish and Catalan governments, which breaks the thesis of (false) terrorism established by the same National Court to arrest protesters, Spanish Court judges have failed to act in their duty because they don’t want to allow the most well-known Catalan leader (Carles Puigdemont “The Revolutionary” as the second most important Disrupter according to Politico) to come back and being allowed to lead and rule Catalonia again instead of putting him in jail for more than 10 years (as it happened with several other leaders that didn’t go into exile and publicly admitted that it was all a fake act).

Many political parties use Telegram to reach their potential electors, so banning the App used by the pro-independence parties seems a political move to prevent more voters from giving them their vote and trust to reach the legitimate goal of becoming an independent state and not being part of Spain anymore.

Strictly speaking, this can be considered a rebellion led by judges, courts and conservative political parties. However, time will decide how this will be handled in the upcoming months (because several open cases in the EU Courts are already aiming to punish Spain for the above violations).

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David Garcia

Senior Software Engineer, Backend, NodeJS & Symfony developer, workaholic, passionate for new technologies and OSS contributor.