Telegram Ad Revenue Supporting Far Right Extremist Movements

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In an April 2024 policy change, it was reported that users of the unregulated social media platform Telegram who run channels would have access to 50 percent of display ad revenue. Researchers at the Counter Extremism Project have found that the white supremacist Active Club movement has been exploiting this potentially lucrative update to the platform, but the problem appears to be wider than just the Active Clubs. The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) has found that far-right groups ranging from neo-Nazis to bigoted far-right politicians now have advertisements running on their accounts, and are potentially earning revenue from them. 

Telegram is an encrypted messaging service that was founded by Nikolai and Pavel Durov, who also devised the popular Russian VKontakte (“In Contact,” VK) platform. They started Telegram in 2013, and after coming under pressure from the Russian government, were forced to sell ownership of VK and flee the country. As a result, defying government pressure has been a core aspect of the company’s philosophy and Telegram quickly became one of the largest social media platforms used in Russia as well as by various extremists due to encryption that keeps its messages out of the hands of governments and others.

The unregulated nature of Telegram has led it to become home to a large number of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, antisemitic, and other far right groups fleeing deplatforming and content moderation on mainstream platforms. Moving to Telegram ensures that these groups can continue to communicate with their supporters from the dark corners of the internet. With the change in management of Twitter to Elon Musk, however, many of these groups have increasingly returned to Twitter (See GPAHE’s reporting on this here). The change in advertising policy may be an attempt to keep groups on the platform.

Crypto Ads on Eric Zemmour’s Telegram page

Many others on the far right are also benefiting from the new ad policy. Éric Zemmour, the far right French politician who leads the white nationalist Identitarian political party Reconquête (Reconquest, REC), one of the main purveyors of the white nationalist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory in France and a historical revisionist who has attempted in the past to resuscitate the image of the Nazi sympathizer Marechal Philippe Pétain, is currently running ads on his channel of more than 22 thousand followers. GPAHE found an ad for crypto trading there. The same can be said for other channels associated with his party. Marion Maréchal, the niece of Rassemblement National (National Rally, RN) leader Marine Le Pen, and previously an influential figure within the Identitarian faction of the RN, has ads running on her channel. Her channel includes more than 14 thousand subscribers. In addition, the main channel for the party Reconquête, with more than five thousand followers, is also running advertisements.

Other far-right channels in France also have ads. The channel for TV Libertés, an online media platform representing the French Identitarian movement, has advertisements running on it. Another far right publication, Jeune Nation (Young nation), directed by leader of the far-right party Les Nationalistes Yvan Benedetti, is also running ads on their channel for the “Chemin de croix” Telegram group. Moreover, as previously mentioned by the Counter Extremism Project, the channel for Active Club France still has advertisements running. The far-right party Les Patriotes, led by the anti-immigrant conspiracist Florian Philippot, is running advertisements, as well as the far right journal Valeurs Actuelles (Current Values) and the channels Zentropa and white nationalist group “White Reset.”

Ads on Afonso Gonçalves’ Telegram channel

In the United States, many accounts supporting the MAGA movement have ads. These include the channels Donald Trump (638k supporters), Donald Trump Jr. (452k), Liz Harrington (32k), and the Trump Supporters Channel (183k). Far right news channels running ads include the Epoch Times (170k), Project Veritas (298k), The Western Journal (72k), Breaking Headlines (91k), and PearFEED (60k). Other far right American accounts with advertisements include the anti-LGBTQ+ “Libs of TikTok Fans” (17k), far right media commentator Candace Owens (39k), antisemitic white supremacist Nick Fuentes (61k), “Retards of TikTok” (3k), the Active Club-aligned “Nationalist Network” (1.7k) (See previous GPAHE reporting here), and ZoomerWaffen

Other hateful accounts from abroad are also monetized. These include the channels of Diagolon member Morgan May (2.4k) in Canada, white supremacist Reconquista leader Afonso Gonçalves (2.7k) in Portugal, the AfD youth group Junge Alternative (3k) in Germany, identitarian activist Martin Sellner (67k) in Austria, Blood and Honor Ukraine (4.3k), and White North Crew (1k) in Poland.

640 428 Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
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