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Vitalik Buterin addresses concerns over Signal's protocol integrity

The app's history of US government ties has raised user privacy concerns.

Illustration of a red flag imposed over the Signal app logo, indicating concerns about the app's ties to government

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Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has weighed in on the growing concerns surrounding the encrypted messaging app Signal, emphasizing the importance of free speech and decentralization in response to revelations about the app’s board chair and potential ties to US intelligence.

In an X post sharing an article from City Journal, Block founder Jack Dorsey acknowledged that he was not aware of the issue.

Buterin’s response to the post stressed the importance of freedom of speech as a “sacred principle” that should be applied universally.

The post also received responses from key figures in the tech space, such as Elon Musk, who said that the issue was “concerning.”

Buterin acknowledged how Signal’s open-source client allows users to verify that the app is not acting against them, regardless of the views held by the development team.

“The one great thing about Signal is that it’s an open source client and so you can check it’s not acting against you, no matter what views the dev team has,” Buterin said.

However, Buterin suggested that Signal could further strengthen its position by moving to a multi-client/server ecosystem, which would minimize the influence of any single team over user participation.

He noted that while Signal’s founder, Moxie Marlinspike, has argued against federating the protocol due to the difficulty of making changes in a federated system, the success of multi-client blockchain ecosystems demonstrates that this barrier can be overcome through “intentional coordination.”

The article in question highlighted Katherine Maher’s past as a “US-backed agent of regime change” and her involvement in coordinating online censorship during her tenure as CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation. It also raised concerns about Signal’s initial funding, which included a $3 million grant from the government-sponsored Open Technology Fund (OTF), potentially linking the app to US intelligence and foreign policy goals.

The concerns raised by the City Journal article penned by Christopher Rufo have sparked a broader discussion about the role of communication platforms and the importance of transparency in maintaining user trust, the same principles that decentralized protocols have sought to address.

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