A Quick Guide to Free Speech and Avoiding Big Tech Online.

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Many people have been asking for a basic, anti-big tech guide. So we’re putting this together as a starting point for information on what services you should use, and what you really shouldn’t. We will be constantly updating this page, so make sure to favorite/bookmark it and check back often.

Social Media.

Gab launched in 2017 as a free speech alternative to both Facebook and Twitter. Since recent Big Tech purges, the platform has seen an enormous surge. The website has similar layout to Twitter, a dedicated posting section, a timeline, and a news section. The platform introduces new additions such as GabTVallowing the user to view all the latest content from their favorite channel/user. You can even sign up for “PRO” services, which allow you to support the network as well as take advantage of rich text, scheduling, and other features (we do).

Gab’s values.

Another platform which advocates for free speech and is open source is Minds.

This social network not only stands firm to its core principles but also introduced the concept of cryptocurrency for its content creators and users, making it a unique and attractive place for people to monetize their social media usage.

The Minds’ Principles page

There are also growing video platforms which are willing to compete with YouTube and challenge their censorship practices. BitChute and Rumble are both great alternatives to YouTube which do not demonetize publishers and support organic search in their results.

On a side note—Parler, which has gained the most popularity as the counter platform to Twitter, has had a tough voyage in the past few weeks, by first being terminated by Amazon and then prohibited by Apple and Google from publishing their app on the App Stores. Ever since, Parler has made a comeback with a fresh redesign of their webpage and a performance boost for their service. Finally, there are also new social media platforms like Clouthub, WeME, and Thinkspot which advocate free speech and are worth trying out to explore new communities based on personal interest.

Platforms to avoid: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch.

Messaging Apps.

Ever since the news broke that WhatsApp will share data extensive data with Facebook starting February 2021, there has been a massive campaign to move users over to Signal.

It is a powerful alternative to WhatsApp and iMessage, with a heavy focus on privacy and encryption. It is available on Android, iOS, PC, and Mac. Second to Signal, Telegram also offers also an alternative pathway from WhatsApp by focusing on user privacy (Signal is still the best in this category) but also offering unique options to join open groups and communities, such as The National Pulse, to participate in open discussions and stay up-to-date. Threema, another messaging app that guarantees anonymity and privacy, has also been gaining huge traction.

Besides switching messaging apps, the default SMS app on Android can be modified to further distance yourself from Google or the OEM. Silence is a SMS app which can substitute your default Google or iPhone manufacturer’s SMS/text message solution (only on Android). Elements is another secure messaging app which compared to the competition is rather advanced, decentralized, and supports self hosting for maximum security and privacy.

Avoid: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, Google Hangouts/Duo/Meet.

Browsers.

Brave and/or Dissenter should be go-to browsers for everyone who is willing to stop supporting Big Tech companies. They are both privacy-oriented, do not feed upon user tracking, and have built-in, exclusive features.

Brave supports their own cryptocurrency (token)—allowing users to mine them while browsing the web and use those coins to support favorite content creators. Don’t let this feature discourage you if all you want to do is browse the web. It’s totally optional, and you aren’t required to go anywhere near it unless you really want to.

Dissenter introduces a universal comment section for every website—meaning every user who has Dissenter can basically comment on each page, and other users with Dissenter can follow up comments and reply them. This occurs whether or not the website offers a comments section.

The idea is to decentralize commentary and create an alternative social platform. Both are based upon the Chromium engine, are lightning fast, and have fully up-to-date capabilities.

While Firefox might once have made this list, they also recently joined Big Tech efforts against free speech. Drop Google, Yahoo, or Bing as your primary search engine. DuckDuckGo is still sort-of okay, but we prefer StartPage.

Avoid: Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox.
All the recommended changes above can be implemented by any user who is already familiar with mainstream social networks. The given list is by no means complete, but is the first line of defense against Big Tech.

VPN.

While VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are great services to protect yourself from your internet service providers (ISP), there are a lot of misconceptions about their capabilities. In general, the main advantages of using VPNs are masking your IP address by the address of your VPN provider, bypassing censorship, prohibiting your ISPs from seeing which websites you visit, protecting your location, and providing encryption throughout your browsing session—especially if you are connected to open WiFi networks. It is a good practice to use VPNs while browsing the internet; however, they do not provide full anonymity or full privacy. They also don’t prohibit Big Tech from tracking you (unless you improve your chosen browser with add-ons such as PrivacyBadger and many more), nor do they protect from viruses.

Keep in mind that your media access control (MAC) address and accounts that you are logged into can still uncover your anonymity. For that reason, VPN work best when combined with secure browsers and ad blockers. Some of the great VPN services are Mullvad or NordVPNboth highly rated by privacy advocates.

Advanced.

For advanced users, the following list of recommendations can provide further decoupling from Big Tech:

  • Instead of Windows10 and MacOS, explore Linux (Ubuntu) or any other flavor as main operating system;
  • Instead of stock Android and iOS, try custom Android roms like LineageOS or GrapheneOS;
  • Instead of Gmail or Outlook or YahooMail, try MailFence, Tutanota, CripText, or ProtonMail;
  • Instead of Google Photos or iCloud, try Internxt;
  • Instead of Google Authenticator, try Tofu (IOS) or andOPT (Android);
  • Instead of iCloud KeyChain (Safari) or other mainstream password manager, try Bitwarden.
We’ll be updating this article regularly, so please bookmark it and check back often.

Wahagen Khabayan

Wahagen Khabayan is a National Pulse Writing Fellow based in Salzburg, Austria