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Signal barely knows anything about its tens of millions of new users. Experts and employees worry it’s an extremist free-for-all.

SOPA Images / Contributor/Getty Images Signal has seen a surge in new users, but some worry extremists could abuse its encryption. Signal say…



Telegram app, Signal, WhatsApp

SOPA Images / Contributor/Getty Images

  • Signal has seen a surge in new users, but some worry extremists could abuse its encryption.
  • Signal says it can’t moderate how people use its app because it doesn’t collect any user data.
  • Experts tell Insider that Signal’s privacy standards put it in a unique position amid its huge growth.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Over the past month, messaging app Signal has been downloaded tens of millions of times. But unlike most social platforms, the company hardly knows anything about its users.

Signal – which is owned by a nonprofit and doesn’t sell ads or user data – avoids collecting people’s demographic or personal information other than phone numbers, which are required to create accounts. All groups and direct messages on the platform are encrypted, meaning the company doesn’t know how its app is being used, and doesn’t want to find out.

Now, Signal is at the center of a new battle over online privacy and content moderation.

The company is under pressure to claim responsibility for how its platform is used amid concerns that extremists are flocking to it after being exiled from Parler and closed Facebook groups. Signal employees have internally raised concerns that the app isn’t doing enough to stave off abuse, The Verge reported Monday.

Those concerns build on longstanding pressure from the US and other governments to break encryption in order to aid law enforcement investigations, a measure Signal has previously rejected. Meanwhile, so long as Signal’s primary form of distribution is through Apple and Google’s app stores, it’s beholden to their rules around moderating harmful content – something that could prove precarious as it continues to grow and add new features.

Privacy experts told Insider that Signal’s practice of not collecting user data puts it in uncharted territory as it adapts to surging growth. While experts agree that breaking encryption is antithetical to the app’s purpose, they said that Signal may have to write an entirely new playbook to ensure the app isn’t used for nefarious purposes without compromising privacy.

“Now is the time to start thinking about these concerns,” said Megan Squire, an Elon University professor and Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow tracking online extremism. “I think it’s probably past time.”

A Signal spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. In an interview last August, Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike told Insider that the importance of protecting privacy should outweigh concerns that private channels are used for illegal activity.

“It’s important to realize that real change happens in private. That has to be true. And if you don’t have any truly private spaces left, I think you’re sacrificing a lot,” Marlinspike said.

The company was founded with a privacy-first mentality meant to run counter to the data-collection practices of big tech companies like Facebook and Google. Marlinspike has highlighted its commitment to protecting the secrecy of people’s conversations on the platform.

“There’s this insanity to how everything works right now. Just a handful of companies have a massive amount of data about everybody – it’s a dangerous equation,” Marlinspike said in the August interview.

Blurring the line between private chats and public forums

Signal has become a target among groups targeting online extremism in recent weeks. After reports surfaced that the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol was organized by users on Facebook and Twitter, those companies began cracking down and banning accounts linked to the violence. Parler, a social media platform used by some riot participants, was taken offline by Amazon for failing to moderate content on its site.

The same week, tens of millions of new users flocked to Signal, as well as other encrypted messaging apps like Telegram. That surge was likely also driven by an exodus of users from WhatsApp over its new data-sharing policies, but its proximity to the online crackdowns following the Capitol siege made Signal an area of interest to extremism researchers, according to Squire.

While Signal has traditionally offered direct messages and small group messages using its encryption protocol, its newer group links feature rolled out in October is garnering more concern. The feature, which is available on rivals such as WhatsApp, makes it possible to share a public link through which anyone can join an encrypted group of up to 1,000 people.

That function raises red flags to those fighting online extremism – according to Squire, extremists typically use encrypted chats to plan specific events while evading scrutiny while using larger groups to spread “propaganda.”

“What you end up with is these large, encrypted groups full of people that don’t really know each other and aren’t accountable and could be getting radicalized and doing weird stuff,” Squire said. “As Signal starts to add more features, that makes it look like a one-stop shop.”

It moves Signal closer to a threshold that, when crossed, could expose it to demands to moderate its content. Right now, Signal doesn’t advertise these groups within the app, but competitor Telegram does let users search for hashtags and terms to surface publicly visible forums.

For example, just this week, Insider searched Telegram for the #stopthesteal hashtag and found an open group with more than 800 members.

Telegram says it’s taken steps to increase moderation on its platforms, but the way in which it amplifies these groups has drawn criticism in recent weeks, with the app coming under fire for hosting groups that have been linked to violence.

In response, nonprofit Coalition for a Safer Web sued Apple for not taking down Telegram following the Capitol attack.

Coalition president Marc Ginsberg acknowledged to Insider that encryption on apps like Signal and Telegram has been a force for good, such as helping users in autocratic regimes shield their communications, but argues that Telegram makes it far too easy for users to find groups posting hateful content.

“Our fight is not to take on encryption,” he said. “Our efforts are right now focused on content moderation.”

Even privacy advocates note that large groups carry different expectations of privacy than direct messages. John Callas, project director at the privacy-focused Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Insider he does find pressure to decrypt group chats “concerning” but added that as groups surpass hundreds of members, encryption becomes increasingly moot because there’s less of an expectation of privacy.

“I believe there’s a basic human right for two people to be able to talk in private,” Callas said. “But when you have a group that big, encryption is not the issue.”

As it continues to build out new features that could be ripe for abuse, Signal’s more immediate threat may be Apple and Google, which have rules for any app on their store that produces user-generated content – which is to say, content created by people for other people to view (Google defines it as content “visible to or accessible by at least a subset of the app’s users.”)

Apple and Google demand that apps producing this content have sufficient moderation policies to stamp out harmful content such as hate speech, and language inciting violence. That rule was recently enforced when Google and Apple suspended social media app Parler from their app stores following the Capitol Hill riots. The app, which is popular with far-right Trump supporters, was hosting content inciting violence and did not have sufficient moderation policies to ban that content, Google and Apple said.

How to moderate content you can’t see

Governments have been pressuring tech companies to break encryption for more than a decade. Department of Justice officials during the Obama and Trump administrations urged companies including Signal, Apple, and Facebook to build “encryption backdoors” that would let them decrypt suspects’ messages in order to solve crimes.

Privacy experts fiercely oppose that measure, saying it would compromise everyone’s privacy by weakening encryption. Evan Greer, deputy director of digital privacy advocacy group Fight for the Future, told Insider that she’s skeptical of renewed calls to break encryption to counter far-right extremism online.

“Encryption is essential for millions of peoples’ safety,” Greer said, noting that activists and political dissidents worldwide rely on encryption to avoid persecution. “We have a lot of work to do to address harmful, hateful ideologies, but we have to stop looking for these quick fixes of, ‘Let’s blame the technology.'”



Business insider

Two new Florida cruises have cabins for solo travelers – see inside the ships

The Solo Suite available in 2022. Atlas Ocean Voyages Over the last month, Oceania Cruises and Atlas Ocean Voyages have unveiled ships with si…



The cruise industry is gradually resuming operations, and at the same time, some cruise lines are tapping into a specific segment of customers: solo travelers.

volunteer employees boarding a cruise ship carrying luggageVolunteer Royal Caribbean employees for the Freedom of the Seas sailing at PortMiami on June 20.

Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Over the past month, two Florida-based cruise lines – including a newcomer to the industry – have unveiled new ships with cabins designed for lone travelers.

top view of the World NavigatorThe World Navigator.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

But solo cruising isn’t a new trend: Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages, and Norwegian have already successfully rolled out single-person accommodations.

a bed next to a desk, tv, and mirrorThe Solo Insider.

Virgin Voyages

Source: Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages, Norwegian Cruise Line

And so far, it’s been a success. For brands like Virgin, these solo rooms “perform really well,” John Diorio, the cruise line’s associate vice president of sales, told Johanna Jainchill for Travel Weekly.

a bathroom with a shower, sink, mirrorThe Solo Insider.

Virgin Voyages

Source: Travel Weekly

Staying in solo suites allows independent travelers to bypass paying single supplements, the fees that come with staying in a room designed for more than one occupant.

a bed besides a balcony with views of the oceanThe Anthem of the Seas’ Studio Ocean View Stateroom with a balcony.

Royal Caribbean International

Some solo travelers see this single supplement as a “major obstacle” and a “penalization” for solitary vacations, Alberto Aliberti, president of Atlas Ocean Voyages, told Insider in an email statement.

a bed besides a balcony with views of the oceanThe Quantum of the Sea’ Superior Studio Ocean View with a balcony.

Royal Caribbean International

Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Atlas Ocean Voyages just debuted this month, and it’s the first luxury cruise line to join the market in over 20 years, according to the company.

the exterior of the World NavigatorThe World Navigator.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Source: Insider

To cater to this solo traveler segment, Atlas Ocean Voyages decided to include single-person suites aboard its first and and only vessel.

a rendering of a bed facing a TV with a window in the backThe Solo Suite available in 2022.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

The brand’s World Navigator cruise ship has 98 guest rooms that can accommodate just under 200 travelers.

a bed besides a armchair, lights, and a nightstandThe Veranda Stateroom.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Beginning March 2022, the World Navigator will also have six 183-square-foot suites designated for solo travelers.

a rendering of a bed facing a TV with a window in the backThe Solo Suite available in 2022.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

These single rooms – which Aliberti says have prompted “very positive responses” – will come with the same perks as the ship’s other suites. This includes binoculars and in-room Nespresso coffee, a stocked mini-refrigerator, and bar and butler services.

a rendering of a bed facing a TV with a window in the backThe Solo Suite available in 2022.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Similarly, in July, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ Oceania Cruises brand announced plans for its Vista cruise ship, which will officially debut in 2023.

a living room with a couch, coffee table, and deskThe Concierge Level Solo Veranda stateroom.

Oceania Cruises

Source: Oceania Cruises

The Miami-based cruise line’s upcoming ship will have “concierge level solo veranda staterooms” created for lone travelers, a first for the cruise line.

a bed tucked away in the corner of the suite with the living room in the backgroundThe Concierge Level Solo Veranda stateroom.

Oceania Cruises

Like Atlas Ocean Voyages, solo guests sailing with Oceania will have the same luxury amenities as other concierge level passengers, such as free laundry and access to the Concierge Lounge.

a living room with a couch, coffee table, desk, and bed in the backgroundThe Concierge Level Solo Veranda stateroom.

Oceania Cruises

And according to Aliberti, that’s the point. Many of these “underserved” solo travelers want the suite amenities, just not the single supplement payments.

a table with seats and a mirrorThe Solo Insider.

Virgin Voyages


two-new-florida-cruises-have-cabins-for-solo-travelers-- see-inside-the-ships

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Business insider

Blackstone’s betting $6 billion on the rental market – here’s why private-equity loves real estate right now

Jonathan Gray, Blackstone president and chief operating officer Heidi Gutman/NBCUniversal via Getty Images Blackstone is all-in on rent resets…



Jonathan GrayJonathan Gray, Blackstone president and chief operating officer

Heidi Gutman/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

  • Blackstone is all-in on rent resets and long-term property assets to combat potential inflation.
  • Private equity firms have trillions of dollars in cash to put to work on acquisitions.
  • Blackstone’s share price ticked over $100 for the first time this month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It’s been quite the month for Blackstone.

The private-equity behemoth is part of a consortium of investors that bought Medline for about $34 billion, its share price ticked over $100 for the first time, and it’s doubling down on residential real estate with a $6 billion Home Partners of America buy.

It’s a bet on scorching demand for housing continuing, and also a defensive move as inflation worries start to seep into investors’ minds. The average price of a home topped $350,000 for the first time inn May, according to the National Association of Realtors, logging the largest-ever increase in prices since the NAR began tracking data.

“Whether it’s apartments, storage facilities for warehouse distribution, or single-family homes, private-equity is getting into this as an inflation hedge,” Nicholas Tsafos, a partner with accounting firm EisnerAmper, told Insider.

Home Partners, which owns more than 17,000 homes in the US, rents out these properties, but tenants have an opportunity to someday buy the home.

In the single-family rental arena, private-equity firms can hike rents, while also holding onto profitable, tangible assets.

“Because interest rates are low, and with the potential for a pick-up in inflation, private-equity also feels the need to be long on hard assets,” Tsafos said. “In real estate, you buy it today and then flip it for a higher price.”

Jon Gray, Blackstone’s president and COO, alluded to it during the firm’s earnings call in April when he said multi-family apartments that come with the ability to reset rents were key for Blackstone.

The firm bought many houses at remarkable discounts after the housing market crashed in 2007. It accumulated a number of single-family homes through a former portfolio company Invitation Homes. Blackstone sold its final block of shares in the company in 2019.

The private-equity shop also favors logistics spaces, such as warehousing, life sciences offices, and media and studio businesses with offices, according to a June 22 research note from UBS.

In October, Blackstone made a handsome investment when it sold life sciences real-estate company BioMed Realty for $14.6 billion, after acquiring it for about $8 billion in January 2016.

And it’s not just Blackstone. Fellow private-equity investor KKR is investing in My Community Homes, a platform that buys and manages single-family rental properties, according to Bloomberg.

KKR will invest in My Community Homes through its real-estate and private-credit vehicles.

A spokesperson for KKR was not immediately available to comment.

The Carlyle Group said in May that it provided up to $300 million to Four Springs Capital Trust, a private REIT that acquires and manages single-tenant properties with long-term net leases.

Four Springs will use the money to build its portfolio, which encompasses 122 properties across 29 states, Carlyle said in a press release.

The move on real estate comes while private investment firms sit on more than $1 trillion in cash. Borrowing costs, too, remain subdued as the Fed keeps interest rates at all-time lows.

Given the sheer amount of dry powder available, coupled with accommodative credit markets, private-equity is keen to conduct a surfeit of acquisitions, and isn’t shy about injecting large sums of equity into prospective investments.

Medline, for example, is expected to raise roughly $17 billion from the debt markets, while the private investors are providing a similar amount in equity.

“Big leveraged buyouts are back in vogue,” said Christopher Zook, chairman and CIO of alternative investment manager CAZ Investments. “Whether it’s KKR or Blackstone, they have large capital to put to work. So they’ve got to do a ton of deals.”

Disclaimer: KKR holds a majority stake in Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer.

It’s been quite the month for Blackstone.



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Business insider

Trading the Fed, plus insights from a 99th-percentile fund manager

Hello and welcome to Insider Investing. I'm Joe Ciolli, and I'm here to guide you through the current market and investing landscape. Here…



Hello and welcome to Insider Investing. I’m Joe Ciolli, and I’m here to guide you through the current market and investing landscape. Here’s what’s on the docket:

If you aren’t yet a subscriber to Insider Investing, you can sign up here.

Have thoughts on the newsletter? Just want to talk markets? Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or on Twitter @JoeCiolli.

Fed-driven portfolio adjustments GettyImages 1228670990

Pool/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve left interest rates steady this past week while setting the stage for two hikes by year-end 2023. Traders, who took a wait-and-see approach before the Fed meeting, quickly sprung into action. Insider spoke with Wall Street and crypto investors to gauge how to position for the hawkish shift.

Read the full story here:

The Fed has left rates steady while signaling 2 potential hikes by the end of 2023. Here is what to do with your stocks, bonds, and digital assets, according to top Wall Street and crypto investors.99th-percentile insights and stock picks Dave Ellison

Hennessy Funds

Financial-sector stocks have outperformed the rest of the market over the last several months. Hennessy Funds’ Dave Ellison – who’s in the 99th percentile compared to peers over the past year – told Insider he expects their strong performance to continue. He shared 5 financial stocks to buy now in order to take advantage of the remaining upside.

Read the full stories here:

Dave Ellison has beaten 99% of his peers over the last year managing the Hennessy Small-Cap Financial Fund. He breaks down why he thinks financial stocks still have room to run – and shares 5 names to bet onSPAC shorts SPACs and hedge funds 2x1

Brian Snyder/Reuters; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Insider

Short interest in SPACs stood at $3.2 billion in mid-June, up from $2.7 billion. The uptick in SPAC shorts comes as the market works to recover from a weeks-long slowdown, and one ETF manager expects recently “de-SPACed” companies to see short activity surge soon. Exclusive data shows the 20 most-shorted blank-check companies right now.

Read the full stories here:

Bets against SPACs are revving back up as the market attempts a comeback. Here are the 20 most-shorted blank-check companies now.YOU’RE INVITED: A Millennial Guide to Home Ownership

Join us and learn how to navigate the complicated process of buying a home in today’s hot market on Tuesday, June 22 at 12 p.m. ET – during a free, hour-long virtual event presented by Fidelity.

Register here.

Stock pick central

Seeking experts who are willing to name names? Look no further:

Have thoughts on the newsletter? Just want to talk markets? Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or on Twitter @JoeCiolli.



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