Millions of Users Are Flooding Encrypted Apps After Social Media Purges
Encrypted apps are seeing a surge in downloads, with Signal installs reaching a record high for the company. “Signal saw approximately 7.5 million installs globally through the Apple App Store and Google Play store between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10,” notes CNBC. “That’s 43 times the number from the previous week. It is [the] highest week or even monthly install number for Signal in the app’s history.” Over the same period, 5.6 million people reportedly downloaded Telegram.
These are global download numbers, so we should be careful assigning a too United States-centric cause for them. But the U.S. alone provides multiple plausible reasons why more people might be turning to the privacy of encrypted chats like Signal and Telegram.
Twitter has been booting a ton of accounts in the past week (including @RealDonaldTrump). Many mainstream social media platforms have been extra jumpy about potential conspiracy theories and misinformation, and Parler is temporarily down after Amazon canceled its web hosting account for allegedly not cracking down on this sort of content enough. Meanwhile, federal agencies, local cops, members of the media, and citizen spies have all been combing social sites for evidence of involvement in the Capitol riot or future far-right organizing. Is it any wonder people might be fleeing for less public (and less accessible to officials, even with a court order) alternatives?
And does anyone think the Capitol and U.S. statehouses are now safer, QAnon conspiracies less likely to flourish, or election fraud fever dreams less likely to stir action now that they’ve been driven to less visible platforms with a smaller chance of pushback from dissenting voices, outside discovery, or platform moderation?
“On Telegram, where members of the Proud Boys and other militia groups host popular channels, there have been calls for people to organize for marches on state capitol buildings on Saturday (Jan. 16),” notes The New York Times:
On one Telegram channel, which has over 20,000 followers, addresses were posted for those buildings, as well as the addresses for tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google.
Members of the Boogaloo movement, another far-right group, have also organized on Telegram and Signal for rallies on Sunday (Jan 17). On 4chan and other messaging groups fliers were posted calling for another march on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. In comments under those posts, people have voiced support for targeting various news organizations like The New York Times and CNN.
Encrypted platforms certainly aren’t just for people plotting something nefarious, of course. The apps are very popular among journalists. They’re an economical alternative to text messaging for people with international contacts. And so on.
There are all sorts of benign reasons why these apps might be experiencing a surge right now in particular. For instance, users are reportedly
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