Xiaomi has blocked Telegram on its Chinese phones: why?

Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker, is now effectively considering Telegram to be dangerous, with the company blocking its users in China from installing the app.

Xiaomi owners, using its updated MIUI 13 “anti-fraud” feature on their devices, can’t install Telegram anymore.

MIUI is an operating system based on Android. Xiaomi uses it on its smartphones and mobile devices. When MIUI 13 was released in 2022, the firm added a new security feature to flag and block malicious applications from running on devices.

The feature is also included in the MIUI 14 version and is, again, called on as a tool to fight spam and fraud.

But many inside and outside China suspect that it’s actually a tool for censorship and an attempt by Xiaomi, which has to cooperate with the government in Beijing, to monitor users’ activity and censor apps. This extends even to Telegram, a messaging app that’s most popular in Russia, a country friendly to China.

The company used the same MIUI 13 feature last year to block apps that allowed Chinese users to bypass local app stores and install any app directly on their phones. If the app was deemed as “dangerous,” MIUI tried and usually succeeded to remove the app from the device or block its installation.

It seems that Telegram is now also flagged as dangerous in China – just like Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Beijing has imposed restrictions on many Western platforms as it seeks control over the digital space, but has recently turned its attention to apps that facilitate unmonitored content sharing, such as Telegram.

When MIUI identifies Telegram, it displays a warning that says: “The app has not passed Xiaomi's security review. This app is fraudulent, and using it may lead to risks like fraudulent deductions or unwarranted consumption. For security reasons, it is advised to activate security measures to ensure application safety and guard against risky apps.”

Xiaomi now says that the Telegram app is fraudulent. Image by Cybernews.

The global versions of Xiaomi devices and MIUI systems are not going to be affected – if you bought your Xiaomi smartphone in the United States, for example, you’ll be able to download Telegram.

But it’s unclear what happens to the devices with Chinese firmware bought directly from China and mailed overseas.

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