(Bloomberg) -- Telegram, the messaging platform being harnessed by peddlers of Russian disinformation, risks being hit by the European Union’s crackdown on online platforms being used to funnel illegal and harmful content.

Regulators are examining whether the service should qualify as a major online platform under the bloc’s new content moderation law, according to people familiar with the matter.

The EU is in talks with Telegram over the number of users in the bloc and how to define the platform, which includes channels that can be followed in addition to messaging functions, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are not public. 

Some officials in the EU and its member states question Telegram’s claim that it only has 41 million regular users in the bloc, according to the people. The EU’s Digital Services Act has stricter compliance rules to prevent the spread of misinformation for so-called very large online platforms, which it defines as having over 45 million active users. 

A spokesperson for the European Commission said it is examining Telegram’s methodology for counting users, and continues to monitor market developments.  A spokesperson for Telegram said that it has fewer than the 45 million active users required to meet qualification as a very large online platform under the DSA.    

Read More: Too Small to Police, Too Big to Ignore: Telegram Divides Europe

The Digital Services Act took full effect earlier this year and allows the EU to fine major platforms of as much as 6% of global annual sales if it finds violations — or ban repeat offenders from the EU. 

Telegram is often used by pro-Kremlin accounts to spread disinformation regarding issues ranging from the war in Ukraine to immigration and climate change. More recently, Russian intelligence officers have used it to recruit petty criminals to carry out acts of sabotage across European capitals.

“We find that Telegram is a big enough platform that similar obligations should apply to it as to Facebook, X and YouTube,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told Bloomberg earlier this month. “It should qualify as a very large online platform.”

Kallas has called on the EU’s executive arm to carry out an independent assessment of the platform’s size.

A Telegram spokesperson said that its platform isn’t effective for spreading disinformation because it doesn’t rely on algorithms and the company is working on a tool to allow national fact-checking agencies to add verified information to relevant posts.

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