Spanish court suspends order blocking Telegram pending police report

Spain's High Court on Monday suspended its own order that was set to block messaging app Telegram's services in the country as it awaits a police report on the impact the temporary ban would have on users.

On Friday, Judge Santiago Pedraz had agreed to suspend Telegram's services in Spain while investigating claims by several media companies that the app was allowing users to upload their content without permission. The suspension was due to come into effect on Monday.

But Pedraz on Monday decided to halt the order's enforcement and instead commissioned a report by national police on Telegram's "characteristics as well as on the impact (the temporary suspension) may have on its users", according to a court statement.

Media firms including Atresmedia, Mediaset, EGEDA and Telefonica have sued Telegram over what they describe as continued copyright infringement on the app. Telegram has declined to comment on the allegations.

During his investigation, Pedraz requested information on the identities of users suspected of illegally sharing protected content from the Virgin Islands, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean where Telegram, founded by Russian-born billionaire Pavel Durov, is registered as a business.

The court said authorities there failed to comply with its request.

Spanish consumers' association FACUA said it welcomed "the fact that the reactions to his measure have led the magistrate to reflect on the enormous impact it would have" and hoped that the police report would lead him to revoke the order.

Cristian Gonzalez, head of content at Softonic, a Spanish software download platform, also said that the users of Telegram in Spain can breathe a sigh of relief.

"Judge Pedraz's acknowledgment of the measure as 'excessive and not proportional' is a significant step. This decision, unprecedented in Europe, acknowledges the futility of such actions, given Telegram's inherent mission to defy censorship and restrictions. It's a moment to celebrate this triumph against the abuse of copyright as a tool for censorship purposes," said Gonzalez.

Telegram is the fourth most-used messaging service in Spain, according to competition watchdog CNMC. It was used by nearly 19% of Spaniards surveyed by CNMC.