A glimpse at the messy future of Signal, the popular encrypted messaging app

Originally published at: A glimpse at the messy future of Signal, the popular encrypted messaging app | Boing Boing


In the wake of the Great Parler Ban of 2021, the popular encrypted messaging app Signal managed to double its users from 20 million to 40 million, practically overnight.

Hmm. Did those extra 20 million users come from Parler, or are they maybe fleeing from Whatsapp?


I really don’t see Signal as having at all similar content moderation challenges (or disasterscapes should they refuse to address those challenges) to social media networks like Facebook / Twitter / Parler / Gab.

Because it’s a messaging app not a social media / blogging site. It doesn’t have a public posting functionality. Social media sites’ content moderation challenge exists in those sites public or group posting features, not in their DM features.

Are email, telephones, the postal service, carrier native SMS considered to have a content moderation challenge? WhatsApp or iMessage or Skype?

I mean, it’s surely good that employees are thinking about it, and not great if management is just dismissing the concerns out of hand - but I think it’s entirely possible the management are right on this one.


Other than the guy fired from signal, what’s the sources of this article?

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maybe unpopular opinion

Remember when the NSA illegally spied on citizens post 911? It was later made “legal”. But nevertheless it feels wrong. Are people cool with giving up their privacy for the sake of “terrorists” or “<insert a good actor in a totalitarian government like Iran here>

I think Facebook and Twitter are crappy platforms, that were not built for how they’re currently being used. They’re doing their best to moderate hate-speech and that’s great. But getting rid of end-to-end encryption for private conversations (texting in this case) is a slippery slope and even more worrying is that it’s coming from developers, who I would hope would know better.

Without strong encryption you’re exposing conversions to not only be viewed by “good actors like the content moderators or NSA” but also any bad actor like black hat hackers, foreign governments, and potentially actual terrorists.

IMHO we need better privacy, not better tools for thought police.


Agreed; this doesn’t seem like a great take. As far as I’m aware, Signal isn’t a Parler replacement (Gab is); signal is a whatsapp replacement for those who are sick of facebook’s reprehensible attitude to privacy and the fact that they are directly going back in a promise not to build walls between whatsapp and Facebook.


Excuse me while I laugh hysterically at that notion for, say, a solid half hour.

Neither has ever given 2 fucks until it became clear a Democrat was about to be president, and made easier by the fact that the insurrection happened.

Then all of a sudden, they started to look like they cared. Fuck both, I wish theyd go under.


So I read both articles, and I’m afraid now.

I’ve read about Signal since Snowden’s initial recommendations, and I’ve used it the last 2 years or so.

I know who Marlinspike is, and I’ve read about him.

What I see here is signal going under within the next few years because it looks like this masse influx of conservatives and QAnon morons is effectively going to force the platform to evolve to more roles, just as they are hinting at, and Marlinspike’s ego seems to naturally want to follow forth with.

It’s going to go the way of facebook, neglect its first basic simple premise that it did well, to add more “features” in effort toward profitability being confused with the original intent of sustainability.

It’s going to start being abused heavily when they add group messaging through public link, and the people who originally needed serious privacy protection are going to be at a loss as the government comes after them for regulation because there are going to be assholes abusing the cryptography in obvious ways publicly.

This idea that technology is inherently non moral is bullshit- because the people who built it reflect their own in it. The reflections in the longer article are spot on on that.

At the same time, I don’t see how a company that actually does what they are doing in the way they are doing polices anything because that should be technically impossible when they cannot read the messages themselves.

I don’t see anything good coming for any of this for Signal. I wish it would stay exactly as it is right now, functional at bare minimum in what it does perfectly.

Innovation on it is just going to do the same bullshit that happened to whatsapp- it will become profitable, get sold to a bigger fish, who will poison it.


Came here to say exactly this. Also people choose to use signal exactly because it is private and encrypted. Somehow “moderating” the content of messages defeats the entire purpose.


Here We Go Again, Monday Edition.


During Marlinspike’s recent interview with Joe Rogan, he hinted at future plans for Signal (as I interpreted it) as being something way closer to social media than typical phone functionality.


That immediately proved the first part of my point.

You know what humans can’t see value in anymore?
Creating something useful, and stopping there. We have been taught innovation is automatically a force for good. It isn’t intrinsically so.

I would like to see tech solutions to basic problems executed well (as Signal currently does), and then, like Kongou Gumi, the 1000 year plus old temple construction company in Japan, be left the fuck alone to not innovate, but execute properly.

Execution, the actual making of things or maintaining them, isn’t sexy to people like Moxie, so this endless cycle perpetuates itself.


Profitability? At a non profit? That doesn’t have any thing you can buy?

Sounds like a great way to identify employees who either need an attitude adjustment or to be heavily encouraged to find another employer.

“I want content moderation” and “I want encrypted content to allow activists to secretly message each other” are not “minor value differences.”


They are going to either change status or work the profit in towards development costs.

Honestly I’ve seen Marlinspike’s type before- he thinks every idea they move forward with is going to “add user value” or some such shit, and he’ll frame it in his mind as for the social good of his userbase construct, allowing more people to “stick it to the man”.

As much as I’m for that, all of this is going to do is break what already makes the app good and attract regulators who will fundamentally insist on moderation, which is physically impossible as the app stands, so they will cave and break it for government and investors.

The investors will come, because they see a captive audience of users.


I got a bunch of notifications on signal from people who I used to know, I wouldn’t have expected to see any of them on parler. Maybe its the publicity around signal and talk of issues with whatsapp.


Well the fact alone that he would let himself be “interviewed” by Joe Rogan puts me off his product


That, plus…



I’m surprised Rogan agreed to interviewed him. Last time I checked (Which I admit was quite a few years ago) Marlinspike was a rare LibSoc in the LibCap world ot tech.


How easy do you think it is to “change status?” Non profits are deliberately hard to change into for-profit corps. This isn’t to say that a non-profit can’t own a for-profit, but they’re still stuck with the the profit having to go towards the declared purpose of the non-profit.