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Signal and Telegram are expanding in China | GLM

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Due to concerns about WhatsApp’s privacy policy, millions of users in the West are migrating to Signal and Telegram, but WeChat has long dominated it. Even in China, where the government has a strong influence on online communication, the number of users of the two encrypted apps has increased slightly.

After being notified by a pop-up notification that WhatsApp will share data with its parent company Facebook, users have begun to escape to another encrypted platform. Telegram announced on its official Telegram channel that it had increased its users by 25 million between January 10th and 13th. Meanwhile, TechCrunch was quick to mention that Signal has jumped to the top of the App Store and Google Play Store in dozens of countries.

The transition was accelerated by Elon Musk on January 7, when his 40 million Twitter followers became end-to-end crypto messengers. It was triggered by a tweet that further aroused his interest and encouraged him to install Signal.

While Telegram and Signal’s growth in China isn’t as remarkable as the surge in popularity in areas where WhatsApp is the mainstream chat app, this growth still exists in various ways in China as an alternative to WeChat. It reminds me of being there.

According to data from research firm Sensor Tower, Signal received 9,000 new downloads from the Chinese App Store between January 8 and 12 China time. This was a 500% increase compared to the period from January 3rd to 7th. Meanwhile, Telegram was downloaded 17,000 times between January 8th and 12th, China time, an increase of 6% compared to the period of January 3rd to 7th. WhatsApp’s growth stagnated, recording 10,000 downloads in both periods.

Sensor Tower estimates that Telegram has had a total of about 2.7 million installs on the Chinese App Store, while Signal has 458,000 downloads and WhatsApp has 9.5 million downloads.

You might be surprised to find out that you can access Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp in China. However, China’s censorship decisions can be arbitrary and inconsistent. As the censorship monitor site Apple Censorship shows, all major Western messengers are still available on the Chinese App Store.

In the case of Android, the situation is more complicated. Most of Google’s services have been blocked in China, and Android users are returning to Android app stores run by local companies such as Tencent and Baidu. Neither Telegram nor Signal are in these third-party Android stores, but users who can bypass the Great Firewall (GFW) in China, such as through a virtual private network (VPN), can access Google Play to encrypt. You can install the encrypted messenger.

The next challenge is to actually use these apps. All major chat apps are treated slightly differently by the Beijing censorship organization. Some, like Signal, work perfectly without the need for a VPN. Users have reported that WhatsApp can work in China without a VPN, but it loads very slowly. And Facebook doesn’t work at all without a VPN.

“Some websites and apps can be left untouched until users reach a certain number of thresholds that authorities want to block or destroy websites and apps,” he said. Charlie Smith (a pseudonym), head of Great Fire, who runs the Apple Consorship, an organization that monitors the Internet in China.

“Probably prior to this mass migration from WhatsApp, Signal didn’t have that many users in China, so if the authorities could have considered Signal’s restrictions, during the last week The situation may have changed, “Smith added.

To comply with the Cybersecurity Law enacted in 2017, companies must store data in China and submit information to authorities for security spot checks in order to operate legally in China. Apple, for example, has partnered with a local cloud provider to store data for Chinese users.

This requirement raises questions about how foreign apps such as Signal and Telegram interact with Chinese authorities. Signal said it had never handed over data to Hong Kong police and no data to hand over when concerns about Beijing’s increased control over the former British colony grew.Talking

According to Smith, the biggest pressure on apps like Signal in China comes from Apple. Apple is constantly being attacked by investors and activists for providing information to Chinese authorities.

In recent years, U.S. giant Apple has tightened app crackdowns in China, targeting services that allow Chinese users access to unfiltered information, such as VPN providers, RSS feed readers, and podcast apps. It has established. Apple has also banished a number of unlicensed games that have been neglected for years in recent quarters.

“Apple has a history of censoring apps that authorities want to censor,” Smith observes. “Whether at Apple’s own discretion or in response to a request from the authorities directly, if Apple decides to remove Signal in China, Chinese Apple users lose their secure messaging options. It will be”.

Related article:
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Category: Security
Tags: Message, Encryption, Signal, Telegram, WhatsApp, China

Image Credit: Yves Dean / Getty Images

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(Translation: sako)


Rachel Maga
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life's biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.