Signal Experiences Massive Growth Following WhatsApp Privacy Terms Change

January 15, 2021 Updated: January 15, 2021

“Signal” app is experiencing remarkable growth due to concerns over Big Tech’s recent ban on President Donald Trump and other prominent conservative figures.

The growth spiked even more after messaging app WhatsApp put into place a controversial privacy terms change, which requires the app to share user data with Instagram and Facebook.

Brian Acton, co-founder of the Signal Foundation, who also co-founded WhatsApp before it was sold to Facebook, told Reuters via email that their growth in recent days has been “vertical,” and that they’re also looking to expand their staff.

“We’ve seen unprecedented growth this past week,” Acton told Reuters. “It’s safe to say that because of this record growth, we’re even more interested in finding talented people.”

Acton said that, at the moment, they are looking at improving the app’s group chat and video services so that it becomes more competitive on a front that has been crucial during the pandemic lockdowns.

During the last seven days, Signal saw 17.8 million downloads—a 62-fold increase compared to the week before. During the same week, WhatsApp got 10.6 million downloads, signifying a 17 percent decrease.

Acton said that they are getting a lot of donations and that “millions of people value privacy enough to sustain it, and we’re trying to demonstrate that there is an alternative to the ad-based business models that exploit user privacy.”

The non-profit Signal Foundation based in Silicon Valley, which currently oversees the app, was launched in February 2018 with Acton providing initial funding of $50 million.

It has existed on donations since, with Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk among supporters, and Acton said there were no plans to seek different sources of funding.

Twitter permanently banned the president from its platform on Jan. 8, two days after a mob broke into the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. The company claimed that Trump had incited the violence.

cnntapes project veritas
Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe in a video as he listens through leaked tapes of meetings with CNN’s Jeff Zucker, in a video released Dec. 1, 2020. (Project Veritas/Youtube screenshot)

The move was met with criticism from world leaders, including the president of Mexico and the chancellor of Germany. Trump accused Twitter of colluding with the Democrats. Facebook and YouTube have also removed Trump’s accounts.

Investigative journalism nonprofit Project Veritas on Thursday released a leaked video that appears to show Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s internal discussions before President Donald Trump’s account was banned on the social media platform following the breach of the U.S. Capitol building.

“You should always feel free to express yourself in whatever format, manifestation, feels right,” Dorsey said in the clip, which was secretly filmed by a Twitter insider, according to Project Veritas.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey speaks during a town hall in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 12, 2018. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

“We are focused on one account [@realDonaldTrump] right now, but this is going to be much bigger than just one account, and it’s going to go on for much longer than just this day, this week, and the next few weeks, and it’s going to go on beyond the inauguration,” Dorsey added. “And we have to expect that and we have to be ready for that.”

“So, the focus is certainly on this account and how it ties to real-world violence. But also, we need to think much longer-term around how these dynamics play out over time. I don’t believe this is going away anytime soon,” Dorsey says in the clip.

Isabel van Brugen and Reuters contributed to this report.