May 28, 2023

So what are you taking Are you worried

KEVIN Honestly, not really?

It is obviously not good for public safety that neo-Nazis, far-right militias, and other dangerous groups are finding ways to communicate and organize, and that these ways increasingly involve end-to-end encryption. We’ve seen this for years, all the way to ISIS, and it definitely makes it harder for law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials.

At the same time, there is a real benefit in removing these extremists from mainstream platforms where they can find new sympathizers and use the broadcast mechanics of these platforms to get their messages across to millions of potential extremists.

The way I thought about it is kind of an epidemiological model. Ideally, when someone is sick and at risk of infecting others, you want to quarantine them from the general population, even if it means moving them to a place like a hospital that has many other sick people living there.

It’s a pretty bad metaphor, but you see what I mean. We know that extremists don’t just talk to each other on major mainstream platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You are recruiting. They join completely independent groups and try to develop conspiracy theories there. In a way, I’d rather have 1,000 die-hard neo-Nazis doing bad things together in an encrypted chat app than infiltrating 1,000 different local dogspotting groups or whatever.

BRIAN I see where you are going with it!

When you open Facebook or Twitter, the first thing you see is your Timeline, a general feed that contains posts from your friends. But you can also see posts from strangers if your friends have shared or liked them again.

When you open Signal or Telegram, you’ll see a list of the conversations you have with individuals or groups of people. To get a message from someone you don’t know, that person needs to know your phone number in order to reach you.

To complete our analogy, Facebook and Twitter are essentially billions of people housed in one huge auditorium. Encrypted messaging apps like Signal and Telegram are like big buildings with millions of people, but each person lives in a private room. People have to knock on each other’s doors to send messages, so spreading misinformation would require more effort. In contrast, on Facebook and Twitter, misinformation can go viral in seconds as the people in this auditorium can all hear what everyone else is shouting.