Telegram and its Affordances for Anti-Democratic Mobilization

On February 28, 2024 Dr. Olga Pasitselska at the University of Groningen hosted a guest lecture by Dr. Kilian Buehling from Freie Universität and Weizenbaum Institut, Berlin. The topic of the lecture was “Telegram and its Affordances for Anti-Democratic Mobilization” based on a paper he wrote together with Dr. Annet Heft.

Dr. Kilian Buehling began his lecture by introducing Telegram, outlining its development history, and emphasizing recent updates related to user monetization. He highlighted key aspects of this communication tool, particularly its features that facilitates contentious politics, its reluctance to moderate content and the high level of anonymity it provides. All of which creates a conductive environment for extremist speech and actors.

In studying Telegram’s affordance for movements, they used the Querdenken movement in Germany as a case study. Described as a digital counterpublic predominantly organized through Telegram, they focused on Querdenken’s information ecosystem, explaining how topics and sources are structured, revealing a fragmented and specialized ecosystem. Their research had three different aims: examining chats, chat groups and channels, with each representing different data sources. He concluded his presentation by suggesting potential directions for future research in this area.

The lecture ended with a Q&A session, where students and academic staff participated in a thoughtful discussion. We thank the University of Groningen, and especially Dr. Olga Pasitselska, for organizing and hosting this event.