In 2018, billionaire Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, made a very drastic move. Dissatisfied with Facebook’s policies since the giant acquired WhatsApp, in March 2018, months after leaving Facebook, Brian Acton made clear his attitude toward the former company with an angry tweet: “Time to delete Facebook”. This move comes at the right time when Facebook is facing scandals about sharing user data as well as issues related to spreading false information.
Almost at the same time, Acton invested $ 50 million in a new nonprofit, Signal Foundation, and served as chairman. The organization’s goal is to sponsor a Signal app, which allows users to send end-to-end encrypted messages.
Signal provides users an easy, safe, completely anonymous communication method. With funding from Signal Foundation, the app doesn’t need to worry about the advertising business – something Acton doesn’t like about Facebook. In an interview with Forbes In 2018, billionaire Acton said Signal would make “private communications popular and easily accessible”. This partly met his expectation. Thanks to its private communication tool, Signal has become a popular application for journalists and activists, including those planners for the Black Lives Matter protest.
But, ironically, the app is slowly becoming a digital paradise for conservatives – just like Facebook did before. Right-wing users are drawn to Signal’s uncensored ability to plan and communicate in bulk. Signal encrypts the message so it does not have permission to access the user’s content. In theory, this means cooperating with police investigations is impossible.
“Using Signal and Telegram apps is extremely dangerous. At the moment, it seems that these two apps are welcoming users with a hateful mentality, which is banned or unwelcome on other app platforms, ”said Harry Fernandez, Director of Change the Terms – The non-profit organization that tracks hate speech online – said. “Another danger is that they don’t seem to have any infrastructure to dominate these platforms.” Encryption capabilities make it extremely difficult to accurately understand what is discussed on these platforms.
There is a big wave of waves coming to Signal, as many people feel they are being hacked online. Facebook and Twitter locked US President Donald Trump’s accounts after he used these social networks to incite riots on January 6 and took steps to prevent misinformation of the group. right-wing user. Parler, a popular conservative social media app, was shut down by Amazon over the weekend as well as a place for users to plan rioting on Capitol Hill. In the wake of that chaos, Signal and Telegram – two encrypted messaging apps – emerged as new alternatives.
Brian Acton and Pavel Durov. Photo: Reuters / Newscom
These two apps are not a substitute for Twitter and Facebook because they only provide private messaging, not an open social network. But the two apps offer things that Twitter and Facebook don’t have: anonymity, encryption, and non-censorship of content, traits that make it easier for even-right audiences to get through the eyes of authorities. to plan a disruptive, large-scale demonstration.
Signal and Telegram’s sudden increase in users are also believed to be due to a large number of new users running around asking WhatsApp after the app made changes to its privacy. .
“I really have doubts,” said Will Partin, an analyst at Data & Society, a research group that tracks hateful statements by the right-wing group on the internet. There was a media panic when conservative groups appeared more and more on these two apps, while the management company said little publicly about the wave and did not mention its intention to reject new users.
These two apps topped Apple’s download charts for the past week with record downloads. From January 6 to January 10, Signal’s average downloads were 251,000 times / day, while Telegram averaged 1.1 million downloads / day. According to app data provider Apptopia, those numbers are up 409% and 61% higher than in 2020, respectively. Along with the growing popularity, Telegram and Signal have one more thing in common: All products are supported by the young technology billionaire and rich ideal. Behind Signal is billionaire Brian Acton, 48 years old. And behind Telegram is Pavel Durov, a 36-year-old Russian billionaire.
Signal was born in 2014 and is developed by a security expert nicknamed Moxie Marlinspike (unknown real name). Its near-impregnable encryption technology quickly won acclaim, including billionaire Jack Dorsey, who combined a piece of the app’s encryption software for Twitter and former spy. CIA Edward Snowden, who says he uses Signal every day.
Brian Acton used to be a former employee of Yahoo. He left the company because of frustration with Yahoo’s policy of relentless focus on advertising monetization. In 2008, Acton and his colleague Jan Koum left Yahoo. They went to America for a year then back to America, applied to Facebook but were rejected. In 2009, the two founded WhatsApp. Three years later, they sold the app to a company that rejected themselves with a $ 22 billion deal. While working at Facebook, a mutual friend introduced Moxie Marlinspike to Acton. The two quickly got a good impression of each other and worked together to add some of Signal’s encryption software to WhatsApp.
When announcing the decision to found Signal Foundation, Acton described on Signal’s target blog as “acting for the good of the community and making a meaningful contribution to society by building sustainable, respectful technology. “. In Acton’s mind, the app would serve as a powerful tool, in the same way that users in the Black Lives Matter movement used it. However, in September 2019, Acton shared on Time that he feels bittersweet when in many cases “the number of app users spiked, but stemmed from bad events in the world.”
Along with Signal, the name Telegram and billionaire Durov are also becoming popular. The stories around this billionaire are quite vague. In 2006, Durov founded his first company Vkontakte – a social network with the same operation method as Facebook. According to the Washington Post, Five years later, he first clashed with the Russian government for refusing to “silence” the opposition politicians on VKontakte. He then fled Russia because of police investigation of a traffic crash – an accident that Durov describes as politically motivated.
Durov developed Telegram with the goal of making it the perfect tool for opposition politicians, activists, who want to change the present and want to avoid arrest for these actions. Almost immediately after its 2013 launch, Telegram went viral. Even extremist groups realized its potential, and it took Durov almost a decade to remove ISIS from the platform.
Both Signal and Telegram offer direct messaging and group messaging. Additionally, Both applications allow a user to join a group operating on these two platforms via a web address. The encryption technology of these two apps makes it difficult to keep track of the content of any extreme conversation.
US President Trump has long maintained a public account on Telegram and continued to post on the app after being “expelled” by Facebook and Twitter. However, although conversations at Telegram are unregulated, on this platform, President Trump has only about 500,000 “spectators”, while on Twitter and Facebook, he attracts more than 100 million followers. .
However, President Trump is still President Trump. On Jan. 12, he posted new comments on Telegram targeting companies like Facebook and Twitter. “I think Big Tech is doing a terrible thing for our country,” he wrote. “But we will take moves against these actions.”