World Leaders, War & Digital Diplomacy on Telegram
An increasing number of governments, foreign ministries and world leaders are signing up to Telegram one of the last remaining social media platforms accessible in Russia.
Telegram has become the frontline in the information war between Russia and Ukraine.
It is on Telegram that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dressed in military fatigue, posts his daily video messages, encouraging his citizens to #StopRussianAgression.
Thousands of Ukrainians have flocked to the platform for the latest official government news about the war; Russians have massively migrated to the app after the ban of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in their country.
Since Telegram is the last open window into Russia, NATO and a handful of foreign ministries have opened Telegram channels over the past month in the hope to reach ordinary Russians.
And finally, foreigners are signing up in droves to follow the war in Ukraine live as reported by the key actors. Telegram has reported an average of 2.5 million new users daily in the last three weeks, a 25% increase from the weeks prior.
The messaging app, which has more than 550 million monthly users globally, is widely popular in Russia with 67 million users or 65% of all internet users in the country according to data from eMarketer.
With the ban of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in Russia tens of thousands of Russians have moved over to Telegram which is still freely available in Russia. Reuters reported on March 21 that Telegram had overtaken WhatsApp to become Russia’s most popular messaging tool.
Telegram is especially popular in the countries of the former Soviet Union namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan and it comes as no surprise that the governments in these countries maintain active channels on the platform.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become the most followed world leader on Telegram with 1,460,812 subscribers. According to Time Magazine he “explosive growth” from 65,000 followers on February 23 to 1.5 million in mid-March. His account has recently been losing followers, but he is still ahead of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro with 1,337,872 subscribers. The Brazilian President is heavily promoting his Telegram channel on Twitter.