Global Freedom of Expression

Telecommunications Services Conglomerate v. Telegram

In Progress Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    March 25, 2024
  • Outcome
    Decision Outcome (Disposition/Ruling), Injunction or Order Denied/Vacated
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Spain, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law, Intellectual Property/Copyright Law
  • Themes
    Cyber Security / Cyber Crime, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention
  • Tags
    Encrypted Messages, Intellectual Property, Social Media

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Central Court of Instruction No. 5 (Spain) ruled that a precautionary measure, previously adopted by the same Court, suspending Telegram’s services on Spanish territory should be annulled because it disproportionately affected the privacy rights of its users. Several telecommunications companies filed a criminal complaint against Telegram, claiming that the platform allowed their content to be sent or published without legal authorization, massively violating their intellectual property rights. They also requested an injunction to suspend the use of Telegram for the duration of the criminal proceedings. On 22 March 2024, the Court granted the injunction. As a result of the public debate generated by the decision, the Court reexamined, ex officio, the appropriateness and proportionality of its judgment. On 25 March 2024, the Court lifted the injunction against Telegram, warning that it would violate the right to privacy of thousands of users who had stored information on the platform. The Court also found that the injunction was excessive and disproportionate because it affected many companies, organizations, and individuals who use Telegram to communicate.


The companies Entidad de Gestión de Derechos de los Productores Audiovisuales (EGEDA)Corporación de Medios de Comunicación, S.A., Mediaset España Comunicación S.A., Telefónica Audiovisual Digital S.L., Movistar+, and Movistar Plus+, filed a criminal complaint against Telegram, an encrypted instant messaging service, arguing that their intellectual property rights had been massively violated on this telecommunications platform. The petitioning companies stated that Telegram allowed the distribution and sharing of their intellectual property products and content without proper legal authorization. The petitioning companies also requested an injunction to temporarily suspend Telegram’s services for the duration of the proceedings.

On 22 March 2024, the Central Court of Instruction No. 5 (Spain) granted the injunction requested by the petitioning companies and temporarily suspended Telegram’s service in Spain pursuant to Article 13 of the Spanish Criminal Procedure Law (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal). In its ruling, the Court stated that “the repeated commission of crimes and the continuous violation of the intellectual rights of the petitioning companies meet the requirements of necessity, appropriateness, and proportionality for the adoption of the precautionary measure.” [para. 1]

The Court noted that the authorities of the Virgin Islands, where Telegram’s parent company is based, did not cooperate during the proceedings. In light of this context, the Court held that the injunction temporarily suspending Telegram was “the only procedural means available to protect the rights of the applicant companies during the proceedings.” [para. 1]

In addition, the Court considered the injunction appropriate because its enforcement would end the infringement of intellectual property rights by preventing access, through the Telegram network, to the content owned by the petitioning companies. Furthermore, the Court highlighted that the injunction was necessary and proportionate given the seriousness of the alleged criminal conduct.

This decision, disseminated through different national media outlets, led to a profound public debate within Spanish society. As a result, on 25 March 2024, the Court asked the Police Information Inspectorate General for a detailed report on the characteristics of Telegram and on the impact that the injunction issued on 22 March 2024 could have on users. On the same day, the Inspectorate replied to the information request.

Under these circumstances, the Central Court of Instruction No. 5 decided to review, ex officio, the appropriateness of the granted injunction.

Decision Overview

Judge Santiago Pedraz Gómez delivered the decision for the Central Court of Instruction No. 5. He had to decide whether the injunction issued on 22 March 2024, suspending the use of Telegram in Spain, was proportionate considering its possible impact on users.

First, the Judge explained that after the injunction was issued, the news that Telegram’s service would be suspended brought to light “a notorious fact that the court should not ignore: that is, the possible impact on multiple users in the event of a possible suspension of the platform.” [para. 2]

In light of this, the Judge considered it necessary to reassess the proportionality of the injunction. To this end, he requested the Police Information Inspectorate General to provide a detailed report on the impact that the injunction could have on the rights of users.

Considering this, the Judge found that “although the Telegram platform is used for criminal activities, it is also used by multiple users of all types (individuals, companies, public officials, workers in general, among others) because of the advantages it offers that other platforms do not,” [para. 2] regarding confidentiality, speed, and the impossibility of being monitored. The Judge considered that these assets could be protected by the right to privacy.

Consequently, the Judge concluded that “the injunction suspending Telegram’s service harms millions of users who use this platform (the vast majority of whom have no connection to illegal activities), as they store an enormous amount of data and information that they will no longer be able to access, while at the same time preventing them from carrying out their professional work.” [para. 2]

The Judge also noted that the measure against Telegram could have a serious economic impact on those companies, groups, and organizations that undertake their communication activities or have implemented organizational mechanisms through this platform.

The Judge then said that reviewing the injunction was not a matter of “freedom of expression or information, but whether or not the measure [was] proportionate.” [para. 2] He concluded that the injunction was excessive and therefore not proportionate. In addition, he explained that the injunction may not have been appropriate because many users could use a VPN or a proxy to access Telegram and continue using its services.

For all these reasons, Judge Santiago Pedraz Gómez annulled the injunction issued on 22 March 2024, which had ordered the suspension of Telegram’s service in Spain.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

Although the Central Court of Instruction No. 5 did not approach this decision through a freedom of expression lens, it expanded it by re-establishing the service of a social network that connects millions of people. The Judge found that the injunction was excessive and disproportionate, as it affected the rights of Telegram users, who store information on the platform while using it for their daily communications. In any case, it should be noted that the Judge changed his opinion regarding an injunction issued two days earlier that had suspended Telegram’s service nationwide. All in all, this new turnaround is a positive step for the freedom of expression of Telegram users, even if it does not examine legal standards on freedom of expression.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

  • Spain, Criminal Procedure Code.

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents


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