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Signal share price? An Elon Musk tweet and a WhatsApp controversy

A graphic drawing of a hand emerging from a phone to stop a potential use, indicating a private and secure only platform
Image source: Getty images

The last week certainly has been anything but boring, especially for the Signal app and its alleged ‘share price’.

You’d be forgiven if you missed Signal’s spontaneous rise to stardom amongst the flurry of big tech interventions and controversies. Better still, what even is Signal? And why does it get the endorsement of Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) founder and world’s richest person, Elon Musk?

The truth is Signal is not a publicly traded company, but we’ll get into that a little bit later. Firstly, let’s grasp a novel understanding of what Signal is and how it has come to find itself topping the app stores around the world.

No mixed signals, just plain private

In 2015 former Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR) employee Moxie Marlinspike combined 2 secure messaging products to create Signal. The messaging service provides end to end encrypted messaging by solely using your phone number as the intermediatory identifier. However, not even this information is used by Signal to try to identify you.

The fierce privacy emphasis has been praised by iconic ambassadors, such as American whistle-blower, Edward Snowden.

The platform’s service is in stark contrast to the likes of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) and its subsidiary WhatsApp when compared on a privacy scale. Currently, Facebook collects information from its users’ including location, name, photos, browsing history, advertising data, audio data, health and fitness – you get the point, it’s an extensive list.

When ripples turned into waves

As written in The Wall Street Journal, the de-platforming of United States President Donald Trump from popular social media services, such as Facebook and Twitter, after the devastating US Capitol riots resulted in some people seeking means of communication that cannot be intervened.

Pouring fuel on the fire, WhatsApp then updated its privacy policy. The update stipulated that WhatsApp would have the right to share the user’s IP address, phone number, and payments, with its parent company Facebook. These terms of service are mandatory and unless otherwise agreed to by 8 February would bar the user from using the messaging application.

Many WhatsApp users were unsettled by the move and were open to alternatives. Key intro, Elon Musk, turning that diesel into rocket fuel, as he does best. Igniting the public interest in Signal, with the eloquently put tweet, “Use Signal” on 7 January.

With more than 42 million Twitter followers, the ensuing flood of signups to Signal tested its load handling. Reportedly, more than 8.8 million people downloaded Signal through the Apple and Google stores over the week beginning 4 January.

Signal share price, a case of mistaken identity

If we reminisce on last year when the video conferencing software, Zoom, was taking the world by storm – traders and investors mistook Zoom Technologies Inc (OTCMKTS: ZTNO) for the real culprit. This led to a much smaller company rising nearly 900% before being halted.

Much like this scenario, Signal brought along its own doppelgänger for a ride. The ‘Signal’ share price experienced massive volatility and jumped more than 6000% after the Elon Musk tweet. Unfortunately, Signal Advance Inc (OTCMKTS: SIGL) has absolutely nothing to do with the private messaging provider, Signal.

Foolish takeaway

Well, if we were looking for a quiet start to the year, I think that can be ruled out. The absurdity continues into 2021.  Social media companies are grappling with the grey area between responsibility for what is published on their platforms, or if they are more a utility.

We all certainly want to have a right to privacy, but in doing so, we don’t want to create echo chambers of ill intent. The regulatory woes will likely continue for Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. into the future as we attempt to navigate these unchartered waters.  

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Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Mitchell Lawler owns shares of Facebook and Tesla. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of and recommends Facebook, Tesla, and Twitter. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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