With Whatsapp under criticism for promising to share your data with owner Facebook, presumably more secure messaging apps Signal and Telegram are on fire following the social media shakeup in the wake of the deadly riots on Capitol Hill last week.
So far, dozens of individuals have been arrested on federal charges, with some accused of bringing weapons to Capitol Hill. Man are charged with unlawful entry or violent entry.
Yet, it seems that there some who were to be more vigilant about hiding their identity and avoiding eventual legal repercussions.
Evidence of that could potentially be found in the fact that encrypted messaging services Signal and Telegram were the two most downloaded apps in Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store that day.
Being banned, or least monitored by social media, pro-Trump fringe groups are now using private messaging services to organize more protests and keep their conversations from the prying eyes of the authorities.
The flip side of this is not good for Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging service, which faces a decline in growth
For the week of January 5th to January 12th, Signal saw 17.8 million app downloads on Apple and Google. That’s a 61-fold increase. Telegram saw double the downloads that same week. Whatsapp, on the contrary, saw a roughly 2 million decline.
Now, U.S. security agencies are warning that more “armed protests” are being planned at all 50 state capitols and the U.S. Capitol in Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th. And if speculation is correct, they’re being planned on encrypted apps.
Encrypted messaging apps are the only beneficiaries of the recent developments.
Alternative social media such as MeWe, CloutHub and other rivals to mainstream social media are witnessing an increase in new downloads since President Trump and a handful of ultra-conservative groups were banned.
The previously little-known social media app MeWe has been downloaded nearly 200,000 times worldwide (and counting) since last week, with a vast majority of those new downloads coming from the U.S. Since last week, the app has ranked Number 6 in the U.S. App Store’s Top Overall free charts.
Using an alternative means of communication has been a key tool for protestors, opposition and dissidents worldwide for a while now.
In the U.S., Occupy Wall Street protestors used social media to spread nationwide. Elsewhere, it was a crucial tool for protesters in Iran, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Russia. And during the social unrest in the Arab Spring, it eventually brought the governments down.
Being aware of that, more oppressive governments tried to prevent the usage of unmonitored communication.
For instance, the government of Zimbabwe shut down the country’s internet in 2019 for a week following violent clashes with the military over fuel price hikes. In 2018, the Iranian government blocked large portions of the internet following weeks-long protests over economic hardship and lack of civil liberties.
For a long time, Americans have watched news from abroad, thinking it can’t happen here. Last Wednesday changed that, and there are fears about what January 20th could bring.
In the meantime, Whatsapp remains the most popular messaging platform, but that status is under threat with privacy issues taking front and center.