Earlier this year, WhatsApp announced that they would be changing their data privacy terms. With the new terms, the company would share users’ data with Facebook. This announcement led to a global outcry, and saw users toy with the idea of permanently leaving the platform and moving to messaging apps like Signal and Telegram. Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal specifically state that the platforms do not use data for ad targeting, and do not share or sell data to other entities. Additionally, Signal offers end-to-end encryption by default, while on Telegram, users have to activate “secret chats” to get end-to-end encrypted chats. However, a critical review of the platforms actually shows the disconnection between how they sell their product and practical experiences of users.
As people wondered what WhatsApp’s new changes meant for their privacy, Signal and Telegram wooed users to join their apps. And while this move seemed like the right thing to do, when it comes to Telegram it may not be entirely true for millions of female users worldwide. In this short essay I will attempt a deep-dive look into the Telegram app from the perspective of women’s experience, particularly that of data privacy and online gender based violence (OGBV). While OGBV is perpetuated on all social media platforms, Telegram’s affordances and approach to content moderation make it a unique ground for this challenge.
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