Military coup in Burma -- could Deltachat help?

"Burmese here would like to chime in. I couldn’t get anybody to install Signal this morning because military raided offices of every offices of major ISP and disabled calling, sms, cellular internet and since signal relied on sms to activate, i couldn’t activate it. Now that they successfully done the coup, they’ve reopened calling, sms and cellular internet on military owned ISP (who literally openly spies on users) and state-owned ISP, which is now in control by military and even soldiers can be seen guarding its offices.

I know a few media and civil activists and i want to help them use Signal since they’re currently using sms and Facebook messenger to communicate with each other. Is there anything i can do to convert them to Signal or any other secure communication tool since most of their data might be compromised."

Good archerships,

Messenging and new medias causes more troubles as they help when people are in confused states. It total not of good use in any way and ordinary messenging, physicaly, is actually still faster in most South East Asian countries.
Hard to find any way of normal conversation-tool as fast occupied by common living-room-activism.

So good and helpful to maybe not make use for such and leave doors open for maybe more helpful communication in peoples daily life where they actually are.

Surely different approach to common ideas but maybe useful to think about a re-rendering of ways of thoughts. Email is at least known as most serious under all ways of electrical exchange and surely not good if getting bigger target because of certain reputation.

A side of that, as good as nobody uses, has, email in SEA or at least not aware or understanding how to use.

Trying to answer the original question - should “they might be reading your messages and arrest us all if you don’t switch messengers” not be enough?

What I can help more with maybe is a comparison of messengers for your use case. Much of it might be shaped by my personal opinion, of course(!). You may also want to ask other people. I think that the most important thing is to switch away from SMS. If you have more questions, just ask.

My advice:

  • use DeltaChat with an email provider (that’s what comes after the ‘@’) that’s not from Myanmar;
  • in case you face internet outages try the WiFi and Bluetooth features of Briar (it’s a bit less usable in general though, and both involved phones need to be online at the same time to send messages);
  • if it’s crucial that the messages do notify you, use Threema (DeltaChat and Briar may fail to send a notification or notify you with a delay, just try out notifications before you rely on them);
  • if the options are Facebook messenger and SMS, go with Facebook messenger.
  • if you want a “poll” feature, use Telegram
  • Don’t use SMS.

More detailed comparison:

  • Delta Chat: You don’t need any phone number, just create a new anonymous email account. Together with Facebook messenger / WhatsApp, it’s therefore the only option where the ISP can’t see that you are using the service. Make sure though not to use a provider that the military could control. More info about some known providers. Pro: if the ISP looks at your network, it looks unsuspicious as you seem to just use email. NOTE: If you use an email provider from Myanmar, the military probably can see which email addresses communicate with which other email addresses (the email provider is the thing behind the ‘@’, i.e. if your email address is, then your provider is
  • Briar: Even more decentralized and private, uses the Tor network by standard. It has some ways of communicating even if there is no internet at all (over bluetooth/wifi, if you are nearby), which might be interesting for you. I don’t know if just using Tor will make you suspicious though. Works without a phone number. It’s a bit less usable in general, and both phones need to be online at the same time to send messages.
  • WhatsApp (I think that it’s similar to Facebook messenger): It belongs to Facebook, which is a monopolist, data-hungry mega company, but to the military, your messages will most likely not be accessible, just as with the other messengers. Everyone who has your phone number can see that you use WhatsApp and when you’re online (it might make you suspicious that you are always online at the same time as some other suspicious person; OTOH it’s rather unlikely that the military does the effort of matching online times, so you should be fine actually).
  • SMS: Probably by far the worst option as it’s inherently insecure and unencrypted, probably the only option listed here where the military can actually read your messages. Rather use Facebook messenger if those are the options.
  • Signal: everyone who has your phone number can see that you are using Signal, which might be a problem if only protesters use Signal, so that using Signal makes you suspcious; also, if they seize a phone, they can see with which numbers you communicated and then also arrest everyone else; apart from that it’s secure
  • Telegram: Not encrypted, but as all messengers here, they won’t give your data to the Myanmar military. (same point as WhatsApp/Facebook messenger). Has polls if you need them, and probably the best user experience of all messengers here. Again, not actually privacy friendly, but if your worries are the military, you’ll be fine. You need a phone number, but you can write people without revealing your phone number (by setting a username, I think).
  • Threema: Similar to Signal but big advantage: you don’t need a phone number. Downside is, it costs 3$ per account.

Some more notes on security with DC:

  • You can set messages to be deleted after a certain time (go to “Disappearing messages” in the three-dot-menu in a chat)
  • There is a feature that you can get a temporary account by scanning a qr-code; not sure how production-ready this is. @hpk can give you a QR code, when you scan it with DeltaChat you get a temporary email account. Downside is, if all activists use this and they catch some activists, they may be able to get the ip addresses of the others (because they control the ISP)

See Security goals of Delta Chat for some more explanation.

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Something else: DeltaChat isn’t great for big groups currently (max 50-100 participants, I’d say; it’s possible to make bigger groups with bots, but at some points you may also get spam problems). In the end, it all depends on what you want; I’m happy to give you some more opinions if you tell me about your requirements (big groups, polls, privacy) or help in other ways if I can : )