Many different chat apps exist. This page will help you choose which one to use for your organisation. Also make sure to check out our guide on how to use chat apps for campaigning.
TL;DR: We recommend activists to use Signal. It is the most privacy-friendly chat app that is easy to use as well.
We only share tools we really like. We are not being paid to recommend them. Feel free to add the tools that you use and tell us why you like them in the comments!
The applications will be compared looking at our five evaluation criteria:
- Popularity: The more popular the app, the easier it is for new people to join your group chats.
- Functionality: The larger your organisation becomes, the more likely you will want to be using an app that is specifically designed for large group communication.
- Security and privacy: We recommend activists to use privacy-friendly apps.
- Price and revenue model: Most chat apps are free, sometimes at the cost of your privacy. Solutions for larger movements often cost money.
Comparing chat apps
We have reviewed the chat apps below. If you would like another app to be reviewed, let us know in the comment section. They are sorted by popularity.
The chat apps below are best suited for small to medium sized groups. It is also possible to use these chat apps for larger movements, but it will become harder to keep an overview. Most chat apps have a maximum number of members for group chats. As your movement grows, you might want to look at the section below about communication tools for larger organisations.
- WhatsApp (most users): This app is very popular and simple to use. While it is owned by Facebook and some improvements are possible, WhatsApp provides quite decent security and privacy compared to the alternatives. If you need more privacy, go for Signal. WhatsApp is blocked in China.
- Facebook Messenger: This app is popular in many parts of the world. It is owned by Facebook and does not provide proper security and privacy features. If it is possible to convince your fellow activists to use a different app, consider switching to a more privacy friendly alternative such as WhatsApp or Signal.
- WeChat: This is a very popular app in China with many features. Content is actively being monitored and censored by the Chinese government.
- Tencent QQ: Similar to WeChat in that it is popular in China, has many features and is also monitored and censored.
- Telegram (best for functionality): This app is popular in some activist groups, because it provides quite a bit of functionality for medium sized groups without becoming too complex. However, this app does not use end-to-end encryption in group chats, and in private chats only if you specifically turn it on. Consider alternatives if you need more privacy and security.
- Signal (best for security & privacy): This app is not the most popular, but if you need privacy and security, Signal is definitely the way to go. Signal is remarkably easy to use, open source and trusted by security experts.
- iMessage: iMessage only works on iPhone, so for many activist movements it is unsuitable. The app does quite well on privacy and security aspects, but is not open source.
Solutions for large groups
Once your movement becomes larger and harder to organise, you will likely start creating working groups that are responsible for managing one aspect of your organisation. For example, in your climate movement, you might want to have one group working on social media, one for organising protests and another one working on reaching out to climate scientists.
The tools below use channels to categorise the different groups of your organisation. It is possible for individuals to join the various channels that they are interested in. You can also join a channel, but mute it so that you do not get overwhelmed with notifications. For coordinators, having all these channels in one app helps them to keep an overview of what is happening. In addition, these tools offer various integrations with other apps such as Google Drive, social media, your calendar and email.
The apps below are developed specifically for larger organisations and thus have extensive functionality to help you communicate as efficiently as possible. However, having such extensive functionality also means that members of your movement will have to learn how to use these tools. People will have to download a new app and they will have to become accustomed to checking it regularly for updates. All of this might make it harder for new activists to join your movement. As your organisation grows, you will have to find a balance between accessibility and efficiency. You might want to consider using a combination of both simple chat apps for newcomers, and dedicated communication tools for activists that are already more involved with your movement.
How to contribute
This article can be improved by addding a section on:
- accessibility of chat tools for people with disabilities: Access for people with disabilities is not necessarily the most important aspect in chat tools, rather the chatapps' possibilities to integrate with apps, plug-ins or features that allow for people with, for example, visual and hearing impairments to use them.
- Communicating with others by EFF (2020)
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