Beyond Encryption: Our Vision for Trustworthy Messaging in a Viral World

Beyond Encryption: Our Vision for Trustworthy Messaging in a Viral World

Private communication is an important element of a dignified and independent life. We believe protected, un-surveilled communication is essential for individual agency, civic participation, social connection, personal safety, and democracy. 

Yet, many design choices and business decisions made by Messenger, Signal, Telegram, WeChat, and WhatsApp have caused today’s private messaging platforms to become objectively unsafe and unworthy of our trust. They claim to optimize for privacy, but their features also support scale, virality, monetization—and abuse.

In “Beyond Encryption: Our Vision for Trustworthy Messaging in a Viral World,” we call on a range of stakeholders to pursue industry-wide changes in design and policy to fundamentally reduce the ways private messaging platforms can be exploited without compromising users’ right to private communication.

For our vision to become reality, nonprofits, researchers, government leaders, and investors need to help establish a new set of conditions, including greater disclosure and transparency, a system of distributed governance and accountability, and more collaborative research and innovation with technologists. Within this new report, we explain how these moves can drive new incentives as well as responsible design and policy decisions for a trustworthy future.

The Jan. 6, 2021 siege on the US Capitol has led to greater reflection on the role of private messages in fueling misinformation, hate speech, and organized disinformation campaigns. What happens online never starts there—and it rarely ends there. But it’s our imperative to ensure private messaging platforms aren’t enabling the spread of hate, violence, and lies. Not only are people’s lives and liberties impacted by dangerous platform designs, but they have devastating implications for our democratic institutions and the health and well-being of our societies. 

This moment demands a new vision: a world in which messaging platforms are more than private—they are trustworthy.

Read our full perspective here.