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Re: Is Telegram or Signal acceptable for harm reduction?

From: Paul Sutton
Subject: Re: Is Telegram or Signal acceptable for harm reduction?
Date: Sat, 7 Aug 2021 08:11:07 +0100

On 05/08/2021 00:30, Jorge P. de Morais Neto via libreplanet-discuss wrote:
Hi.  Sometime ago I submit to a proprietary instant messenger for a work
chat room.  I want to get rid of it ASAP.

As I had it installed and active on my smartphone (for the work room), I
ended up joining three other chat rooms about civil service public
exams.  These three are big, so I have no hope of convincing everyone to
switch to an ethical network.  I then intend to join these rooms from my
wife’s account, on her smartphone, which I would consult weekly for new
chat messages¹.  The other room (the work one) has only seven members
(including me), so I hope to convince them to switch to a better
platform.  If they don’t want to switch, then I’ll ask them to forward
me the rare important messages via an ethical technology like SMS or

Now, what if my six work colleagues accept switching to another chat
network but refuse both XMPP and Matrix because "no one uses that",
accepting only Telegram or Signal?  I do currently have Telegram and
Signal accounts, but I worry about their ethics.

I can't comment on Telegram

In terms of the "no one uses that" argument. I believe the main comms channel for FOSDEM 2021 was Matrix, If we can get figures on that, we can do the same for other large online events and help to counter argue that statement.

If there is just a small group, does it matter if no one else uses it? As long as all members of your small group use it.

"No one uses it" is becoming more and more of an outdated excuse. Not your fault but good examples + figures (seems obligatory in the business world) would help counter.

What about using Jitsi for meetings, you can use video or voice chat or is this a messaging application.

Going back to no one uses it, isn't XMPP the same protocol that WhatsApp uses? Again Jitsi has been used for big conferences such as LibrePlanet, EmacsConf and others.


Telegram /does/ have free clients on GNU Guix and PureOS repositories,
which is great, but it is a centralized network, the server code is
hidden, and it doesn’t even have end-to-end encryption!  So is it a real
improvement over the fully proprietary---but allegedly end-to-end
encrypted---status quo?

What about Signal?  Compared to Telegram, it has the big advantage of
end-to-end encryption, but the disadvantage of obstructing the
distribution of modified versions of its client; it is not even
available on F-Droid, Guix or Debian (let alone PureOS).

So, should I insist on a really ethical network---XMPP or maybe
Matrix---despite the big likelihood that they will refuse, or should I
swallow Telegram or Signal?


¹ You may wonder what is the point of refusing to use the proprietary
application on my smartphone, but still using it on my wife’s
smartphone.  It is clearly still not ideal, but it does have significant

1. I would not be discoverable in the network, so people who want to
    reach me (outside those three remaining rooms) would send an email or
    SMS instead.
2. I would be able to delete my account, thus reducing the unethical
    network’s market value.
3. The surveillance AI would be confused with two people using the same
4. I would be less tempted to join other rooms in the unethical network.


Paul Sutton, Cert Cont Sci (Open)
Pronoun : him/his/he
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21st Debian Conference August 22 to August 29, 2021.
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