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Conservatives are flocking to alternatives to Twitter and Facebook after those services took a tougher stance on hate speech and misinformation before the recent election. While Parler has become a haven for Trump supporters, another right-leaning service—MeWe—is growing even faster.
Users downloaded MeWe more than 1.4 million times during the first three weeks of November, a 20-fold increase from October, according mobile app data analytics firm Sensor Tower. For comparison, during that same time period, its buzzy competitor, Parler, had 4.7 million downloads, up more than 14-times from the previous month.
MeWe started this year with just 48,000 new downloads in January. But conservatives’ anger over how Facebook and Twitter policed their sites has helped lift use of the MeWe.
Some of MeWe’s featured pages include conservative news organizations The Epoch Times and Newsmax along with mass media news organizations like The New York Times and The BBC. Meanwhile some of the largest public political groups on the app include MAGA 45, Sean Hannity conservatives, and a fan group for Fox News political commentator Tucker Carlson.
Though fan groups for conservatives like Donald Trump, Hannity, and Carlson exist, MeWe hasn’t actually attracted the political figures to its service.
Here’s what to know about MeWe.
What is MeWe?
MeWe, which debuted in 2016, calls itself the “next-generation” of social media. Users can share photos, videos, and voice messages along with messaging other users, creating private groups for friends and family, and joining public groups.
MeWe was created following a discussion by friends during a dinner, according to the company. The group was concerned about how big tech companies like Facebook were handling the “spirit of our democracy” as well as users’ personal information. That led Mark Weinstein, who had created the social websites SuperFriends.com and SuperFamily.com in the late 90s, to building MeWe.
The service has no ads and, according to the company, doesn’t share users’ personal information with advertisers.
How is it funded?
The Los Angeles-based company, whose legal name is Sgrouples, has raised more than $14.5 million. After its most recent funding round in January 2019, it had a $49.8 million valuation, according to Pitchbook.
Some of the MeWe’s investors are Jack Canfield, former CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul Enterprises; Lynda Weinman, who sold her learning website to LinkedIn in 2015; and fashion designer Rachel Roy. Two of the site’s first investors were venture capitalists Eric Hippeau, of Lerer Hippeau Ventures; and Jon Staenberg of rocketship.vc.
MeWe’s revenue comes from in-app purchases, like extra storage for photos, voice and video calling, and custom emojis. Another is the MeWe Premium membership, which costs $4.99 monthly for a bundle of special features. There’s also a Slack-like service for business customers called and MeWePro.
Who leads MeWe?
Helping Weinstein determine the company’s direction is an advisory board that includes Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the English computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web; Raj Sisodia, a co-founder of the Conscious Capitalism movement; Chicken Soup for the Soul founder Canfield; and Dany Garcia, who manages Dwyane “The Rock Johnson” and runs Seven Bucks Productions company with him. Also on the board is MIT professor Sherry Turkle, filmmaker Cullen Hoback, and Baird analyst Colin Sebastian, according to MeWe.
What makes it attractive to conservatives?
“Unlike other social networks,” the service says it has “absolutely no political agenda and no one can pay us to target you with theirs.” That’s likely music to the ears of conservatives, who have for years argued that Facebook and Twitter unfairly censor their posts.
Though conservatives may consider MeWe to be a friendly alternative, the service also has a long list of rules that can ultimately get users removed. In addition to prohibiting spam and illegal content, it bans posts that are “hateful, threatening, harmful or incites violence.” That includes bullying, harassment, or porn. And it says people can’t use the service to do anything misleading or discriminatory and that they can’t impersonate other people, brands, or create fake accounts.
However, MeWe’s rules don’t mention whether racist comments, health misinformation, or false claims about election fraud would be removed or get warnings labels—as they are on Facebook and Twitter. The service also doesn’t appear to fact-check or provide fact-checking attachments to posts that may have misinformation.
What differentiates MeWe?
MeWe’s business doesn’t depend on ads, therefore users aren’t targeted by specific advertisers and the service isn’t incentivized to make decisions in favor of those advertisers.
The company also says that it doesn’t use algorithms to help determine what users want to see. Instead users see the most recent posts from the people and groups that they follow regardless of what they say.
MeWe also has a secret chat option, which allows users to send encrypted messages to others that are deleted from MeWe’s servers after they have been delivered.
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