Police forced conspiracy theorist to delete Telegram channel: report
The police forced a conspiracy theorist to delete a Telegram channel and closed down two other channels via a confiscated phone belonging to an administrator, BNR reports based on an official police report. Experts believe this is an abuse of power, they said to the broadcaster.
The channels involved are "Herhaling RPJ/Verboden video uitzendingen," "Bataafse Republiek," and "Bataafse Nieuws." They contained inciting and threatening messages and videos aimed at implementers of the coronavirus policy, among others. In October, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said it took down the channels in a press release.
The OM said that the administrator of channel "Herhaling RPJ" had voluntarily removed it. But according to BNR, the police report shows something different. It shows that two officers visited the administrator's home on October 8. While there, the cops called the public prosecutor, who threatened the man with criminal prosecution if he did not remove the channel immediately. The police watched him do it, and one took a photo for the police report. "The purpose of the visit was to ensure that no further anti-government-related messages would be disseminated through this Telegram channel," the service sergeant wrote in the report.
In the October press release, the OM said that the other two channels were blocked, but not how it happened. According to BNR, a later published ruling by the examining magistrate showed that the police officers blocked the channels themselves on the confiscated phone of the administrator Wouter Raatgever. The man was in custody for sedition and threats, so the police had his phone. They also had his access code because Raatgever wanted to show them messages as evidence in another case, according to the broadcaster.
Raatgever's lawyer, Max Vermeij, called this an abuse of power. "The law does not state that the police can do it themselves. A prosecutor can order a communication service provider to make certain data inaccessible. But what has now happened is that the prosecutor asked the examining magistrate for authorization to have the channels closed by a police officer. Permission was given for that, which is completely against the law," he said to BNR.
Experts BNR spoke to agree that the Prosecutor went beyond its reach in this case. Frederik Zuideerveel Borgesius, professor of IT & Law, confirmed the law requires the OM to go to the service provider - Telegram - to block access to data. "There doesn't seem to be any urgency in this case. I also feel very uncomfortable with the law being stretched like that by the judiciary."