As the South Korean government cracks down on Internet free speech, South Koreans are heading en masse to encrypted chat programs.
Article by Russell Brandom for The Verge
Two weeks ago, Kakao Talk users in South Korea users got an unpleasant surprise. After months of enduring public criticism, President Park Geun-Hye announced a crackdown on any messages deemed as insulting to her or generally rumor-mongering — including private messages sent through Kakao Talk, a Korean messaging app akin to WhatsApp or iMessage. Prosecutors began actively monitoring the service for violations, promising punishment for anyone spreading inappropriate content.
In response to the crackdown, South Koreans have voted with their feet, heading en masse to encrypted chat programs hosted outside the country, particularly an app called Telegram known for its encryption features. Based in Germany, Telegram reports roughly 1.5 million new South Korean users have signed up in the past seven days, giving the app more than 50 million users worldwide.
Telegram's Markus Ra says it's not the only country where government controls have made Telegram an attractive option. "People frequently come to Telegram looking for extra security — some of them from countries with censorship issues," Ra says. "What really makes us happy is that the users stay when the privacy scandals have died away."
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