The chaos in the United States and the unprecedented wave of censorship that hit even the US President have removed all masks. MSM and the Big Tech have proven their strength and demonstrated that there are no more red lines, democracy is not their limit. Total censorship, which was previously hushed up and justified under the pretext of fighting disinformation, was publicly employed, provoking sharp criticism and mistrust. This led to the largest digital migration in human history.
Almost 89 million people have been subscribed to the Twitter account of the incumbent President, and it has become Trump’s main platform for communicating with his audience. Twitter finally suspended it, while Facebook and Instagram disabled Trump’s accounts at least until the end of the presidential term, which does not prevent from extending the sanctions beyond January 20th. Other platforms censoring president-related accounts and content include Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, Discord and more. Together with the US President his supporters were affected. After the Capitol assault on January 6, Twitter suspended more than 70 thousand accounts.
The main platforms that faced a large flow of digital refugees, in particular, were Telegram, an independent messenger founded by Russian software ingineer Pavel Durov, and Parler, a platform that positions itself as an uncensored alternative to Twitter. The sharp explosion in popularity of the previously little known social network Parler did not last long after the blocking of Trump’s accounts: Apple and Google deleted the application in their stores, and Amazon cut off its hosting.
On the other hand, Telegram got significant benefit.It became one of the most downloaded application in the United States as well as other countries.
Pavel Durov wrote in his blog on January 12:
In the first week of January, Telegram surpassed 500 million monthly active users. After that it kept growing: 25 million new users joined Telegram in the last 72 hours alone. These new users came from across the globe – 38% from Asia, 27% from Europe, 21% from Latin America and 8% from MENA.
This is a significant increase compared to last year, when 1.5M new users signed up every day. We’ve had surges of downloads before, throughout our 7-year history of protecting user privacy. But this time is different.
After an account allegedly belonging to Donald Trump appeared in Telegram, the number of its followers is increasing by an average of 5,000 per hour. It has not been verified whether the account belongs to the US President, but its popularity confirms that a huge number of his supporters are moving to the new network.
A number of Presidents of other countries have already created their Telegram accounts, among them Benjamin Netanyahu, Rejep Taib Erdogan, Jair Bolsonaro, Emmanuel Macron and others.
Their list was published by Pavel Durov on January 14 :
- The President of Brazil – @jairbolsonarobrasil
- The President of Turkey – @RTErdogan
- The President of Mexico – @PresidenteAMLO
- The President of France – @emmanuelmacron
- The Prime Minster of Singapore – @leehsienloong
- The President of Ukraine – @V_Zelenskiy_official
- The President of Uzbekistan – @shmirziyoyev
- The President of Taiwan – @iingtw
- The Prime Minister of Ethiopia – @AbiyAhmedAliofficial
- The Prime Minister of Israel – @bnetanyahu
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The social networks are dividing into groups, giving the political leader’s the opportunity to proclaim their commitment to the principles of one or another side, at least in the issue concerning the freedom of speech. However, the gap between the two camps is likely to expand.
The massive outflow of users from mainstream social networks confirms that the Big Tech, having made its choice in favor of censorship, hurt itself, and could not justify its act either by alleged “disinformation fighting” or accuses of “incitement to violence”. They once again demonstrated their deep dependence on their political interests.
Meanwhile, the founder of Telegram Pavel Durov is preparing to welcome new users.
“People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by tech monopolies that seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users.
With half a billion active users and accelerating growth, Telegram has become the largest refuge for those seeking a communication platform committed to privacy and security. We take this responsibility very seriously. We won’t let you down.”
Durov de facto invites all those who disagree with the manipulation of public opinion to use Telegram. In order to assure that his platform will not sacrifice the privacy of users for the sake of benefits, he partially disclosed the strategy that his project will follow in the face of the rapid growth in the number of users.
For most of Telegram’s history, I have paid the company’s bills with personal savings. But at current rates’ growth , Telegram is on track to reach billions of active users – and the appropriate costs will be needed.
We are not going to sell the company like the founders of WhatsApp did. The world needs Telegram as an independent project that respects the rights of users and provides high quality service.
… next year we will start monetizing Telegram. …. We will offer additional functions for business teams and users with complementary needs. Some of these new features will ask additional resources, as a result, they will be paid. Regular users will always use Telegram for free. … In this regard, we will offer our own advertising platform for channels, which will provide users with comfort and privacy, and will allow us to cover the costs of servers and traffic. … Telegram monetization should benefit the entire community. For example, if popular public channels are monetized through an advertising platform, the owners of these channels will receive free traffic in proportion to their reach. Or, if – in addition to the current free stickers – there are paid stickers with enhanced features, the artists will also receive a part of the income. We want Telegram content creators and entrepreneurs to thrive by enriching all of our users through improved services.
… This approach will allow us to remain independent, preserve our values, and offer the world an example of a new kind of technology company. Telegram is gaining the trust of more and more users, taking on the role of the main fighter against censorship and the omnipotence of the Big Tech. At the moment, Telegram has a number of advantages for this.
The technological advantage of Telegram is apparent. Сontrary to Parler, Telegram has no such gaps in security. Before the Parler’s shutdown, hackers gained access to terabytes of its users’ data in aim to preserve the information about the participants of the Capitol assault on January 6.
For the journalists DMing me to ask, in non-technical terms, I’d describe the current Parler archival situation as “a bunch of people running into a burning building trying to grab as many things as we can”.
Things will be available in a more accessible form later.
— crash override (@donk_enby) January 10, 2021
Over the 8 years of Telegram existence, its founder has repeatedly proved his adherence to the principle of ensuring the safety of users’ data. In 2013, being the general director of the Russian messenger Vkontakte, Pavel Durov said that he had to sell his stake due to a conflict with the FSB.
“On December 13, 2013, the FSB demanded us to give out the personal data of the groups that participated in organization of the Euromaidan groups. Our response was and remains a categorical refusal – the jurisdiction of Russia does not extend to Ukrainian users of Vkontakte.
As soon as he left the post of Vkontakte CEO in 2014 and moved out of Russia, his new project Telegram drew the attention of the American special services. In 2016, after numerous attempts to get in touch with him, at the moment when he came to San Francisco in order to take part in the annual Google conference, two FBI agents broke into his apartment and asked questions.
“They showed me the court order and said, ‘We really respect your position on privacy and cryptography and we respect what you are trying to do. But terrorism is a serious problem, and we have to protect society. We hope you understand and share our views, ” Durov said, adding that the agents suggested that he create an informal channel through which it would be possible to exchange information about specific users of Telegram in case of a terrorist threat.”
During our team’s 1-week visit to the US last year we had two attempts to bribe our devs by US agencies + pressure on me from the FBI.
— Pavel Durov (@durov) June 11, 2017
At the same time, the main threat for Telegram remains. After the Parler precedent, it is the Big Tech’s possibility to completely restrict the users to download the apps. Durov said that his team was working on a multifunctional web application for Safari. This does not give the free access to apps that are blocked in the App Store, but it could be “a last resort”.
US special services are likely to increase their activity towards the independant networks like Telegram. Just recently, the CIA has got a new brand and logo removing all government symbols, unveiling that they serve the globalists ideas.
While the “democratic” United States has proved the complete control over public opinion by mainstream media corporations, “totalitarian” Russia has embarked on a course to support the freedom of the social network.
In 2018, Telegram was de jure blocked in Russia for security reasons after refusing to provide the FSB with the keys to decrypt messages. In the summer of 2020, the restrictions were lifted.
“The fight against terrorism and the right to privacy of personal correspondence are not mutually exclusive,” Durov wrote.
At the same time, Durov has never been accused of collaborating with the Russian authorities, confirming that Telegram has no servers in Russia. Moreover, Durov announced that his team had improved methods of detecting and removing “extremist propaganda.”
The chaos in the United States has shown the need for consensus between social networks regulations and an acute lack of a unified transparent standard of moderation that will allow observing the principles of free speech, but at the same time ensure the safety of users and prevent the spread of all kinds of malicious content.
The events in the US and the Big Tech’s impunity are likely to spark a wave of new supposedly “secure” messengers. Today this segment is already quite large: Signal, Whatsapp, Viber, Threema etc. However, not all of these applications correspond to the declared level of data transmission security and are often accused of transferring the data to third parties. Telegram’s good reputation and growing popularity allow it to become a leader in this sphere. In an era when information is of the highest value and may become a weapon, this allows it to gain significant influence.
Association of Telegram with Russia, as well as a change in Moscow’s policy towards the independent network also allow Russia to gain the status of a harbor of free speech in the world of Big Tech censorship and the neo-liberal totalitarianism. Thus, Russia has a chance to became the alternative center of power.
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