What the Tech? Why Are So Many People Downloading the Telegram and Signal Apps?

Signal and Telegram have been around for years but suddenly this week, they’ve soared to the top of the app store charts and the reason is causing some concern.

Signal and Telegram are secure messaging apps built on privacy. Messages are encrypted on both platforms which means only the sender and receiver can see them. The message is not stored on any server.

Telegram, which allows users to communicate via private chat rooms with as many as 200,000 people was downloaded 25 million times in the last 72 hours according to the app. So what’s happening?

When the app Parler was removed from the app stores and its website shut down by Amazon last weekend, all of those users went looking for alternatives.

Browsing some of the public group channels on Telegram I found dozens of people praising the app’s privacy restrictions and are urging others to leave Twitter and Facebook and join them on Telegram.

With one tweet, Elon Musk led thousands of his 42 million followers to install Signal over the last few days.

Not only do both apps use end-to-end encryption, but messages can also be edited and self-destruct once they’ve been read. Leaving behind no trace that the message was ever sent.

Telegram also helps you find new people by using the phone’s GPS and search for other users who are nearby. Once they’re connected in the app, they can communicate back and forth or share information about private channels and meet there.

With the spike in numbers coming just after Parler’s demise, it’s likely extremist groups are now using Signal and Telegram to connect and communicate.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue reported back in June they had identified 208 telegram channels used by white supremacists. 3 years ago Telegram removed accounts and channels being used by ISIS terrorists to recruit and communicate with new members. The apps need only a phone number to sign up but once an account is active, no one can see the number. Users can also choose to hide their identity.

The developers behind Telegram confirmed to TechCrunch it has pulled down dozens of white supremacists public channels that were inciting violence and says it is monitoring the situation closely.

Signal and Telegram are both free apps for iPhones and Android devices. They each have their own desktop computer apps as well.

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