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Encrypted messaging apps, which protect the privacy of online conversations, were once special tools used primarily by people working in professions where confidentiality was prized, like law, journalism and politics.
Now everyone is jumping on board. In the last month, tens of millions of people have downloaded the private messaging programs Telegram and Signal, making the two services the hottest apps in the world. Some new users include far-right groups that were barred from posting on Facebook and Twitter after the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
The shift to private messaging has renewed a debate over whether encryption is a double-edged sword. While the technology prevents people from being spied on, it might also make it easier for criminals and misinformation spreaders to do harm without getting caught.