MeWe Social Network: Fact & How different from Facebook?
Photo: Mashable

What is MeWe?

MeWe is an alternative social networking site that's currently experiencing a surge in new users as Trump supporters search for new platforms in order to avoid Facebook and Twitter. It bills itself as the “next-gen social network” and centers its sales pitch to new users around data privacy and providing an ad-free experience.

MeWe is owned by a company called Sgrouples, which was actually also the name of the platform early on. It was founded by internet entrepreneur Mark Weinstein. In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, Weinstein called himself “one of the guys who invented social media.” While that’s giving himself a bit too much credit, Weinstein was in the space early on. In 1998, he created a very early social network type site called SuperGroups, which was shut down by its investors in 2001. In 2011, Weinstein started a new online business venture which eventually resulted in the creation of MeWe, said Mashable.

Now, MeWe is experiencing a boom just like Parler as pro-Trump supporters boycott Facebook and Twitter over their anti-misinformation policies in the aftermath of Trump’s defeat in the election. It should also be noted that unlike Parler, MeWe does have users who aren’t conservative. It’s not even all about politics like it is with Parler. There are MeWe groups for supporters of the Green Party, groups for dog and cat lovers, and arts and music groups, to name a few. However, the most active users on the site seem to be there to discuss conservative politics.

MeWe Social Network: Fact & How different from Facebook?
Photo: Author Media

How MeWe earns its fund?

MeWe is a paid-for social media site with no adverts, priced at approximately £5 per month, although it does allow users to sign-up for free. In exchange, users get similar functionality to that on Facebook: access to groups and a messaging client, pages, a network of friends, and more.

The platform’s membership has apparently grown to roughly 15 million with an increase of 9,500 daily downloads in the days leading up violence at Capitol Hill. The social network MeWe gained 2.5 million new members in the past week as social media users flock to privacy-focused apps. The social network currently has 16 million members, according to the company. In June 2020, MeWe stated it had roughly 8 million members.

Over 50% of MeWe users are located in North America. Meanwhile, 24% are located in Asia, 24% in Europe, and 2% in Australia. Brazil and Argentina also have a small percentage of members.

MeWe is currently the second most downloaded free social networking app on Apple’s App Store. According to mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower, MeWe received 218,000 new installs on Google Play and the App Store in the U.S. during the period between last week’s election and yesterday.

Last year, Weinstein said that MeWe had 5 million users. However, just like with Parler’s numbers, it pales in comparison to Facebook’s 2.7 billion users or even Twitter’s 330 million users. MeWe faces many of the same challenges any startup social media company faces today: keeping users engaged on the site when everyone they know is on the more popular platforms. However difficult MeWe’s growth will be, it may be financially in a place to compete.

MeWe Social Network: Fact & How different from Facebook?
Photo: Techaeris

How MeWe different from Facebook?

The ad-free platform aims to compete against traditional social media models that use data collection for targeted ads. MeWe, launched by Mark Weinstein in 2016, also vouches not to censor their users for behavior that might violate the policies of other networks, including Facebook and Twitter. "People all over the world are leaving Facebook and Twitter in droves because they are fed up with the relentless privacy violations, surveillance capitalism, political bias, targeting and newsfeed manipulation by these companies," MeWe's marketing director, David Westreich, told USA Today. “No Ads, No Targeting, No Political Bias, No Newsfeed Manipulation, and No BS!” said Weinstein in a recent post.

Unlike Parler, MeWe isn’t trying to replicate every other social media site. Weinstein’s intent seems pretty clear in the marketing of the site and in his interviews: MeWe wants to be the alternative to Facebook. This probably explains why the site tries to replicate Facebook’s user interface. Users can give thumbs up, hearts, and smiley faces to posts. They can share posts on their various feeds. There are user-profiles and separate pages, as well as groups, feature for people to congregate around a specific topic.

This is all set up very similar to how it is on Facebook, down to the messiness of the UI. However, MeWe’s design does make it feel like the whole platform was bought off one of those sites that sell turnkey website solutions so you too can be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

MeWe Social Network: Fact & How different from Facebook?
Photo: Talkcmo

MeWe's "Privacy Bill of Rights"

MeWe follows its "Privacy Bill of Rights," which states the platform does not manipulate, filter, or change the order of users' newsfeeds or use facial recognition technology. Its terms of service prohibit users from posting content that is hateful, threatening, harmful, or incites violence.

In its policies, MeWe states that it will ban users if they:

Violate any law or regulation.

Stalk, harass, bully, intimidate, or harm another user.

Post unlawful, harmful, obscene, or pornographic content.

Impersonate someone.

Post content that is hateful, threatening, harmful, incites violence; or contains graphic or gratuitous violence.

Use MeWe to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.

However, MeWe does offer some attractive features to people moving from sites such as Parler. The social media site does not have policies banning misinformation or fake news. While such actions could cause harm – such as promoting misinformation during a pandemic – the company says that its “structural design” presents the spread of misinformation. “We have absolutely no censorship for good people who follow our rules. We don’t care what your opinion is if you’re on the right or the left. That’s none of our business”, Mr. Weinstein told the Associated Press.

How does MeWe moderate content?

While MeWe might ban content that violates its Terms of Service in theory, in practice this is more challenging, and radical far-right content manages to persist on the platform. Weinstein did not say how many content moderators it had on staff, but the number is currently under 100 employees. Weinstein also claimed that it is working to hire additional moderators, according to the Independent.

This approach has been criticized by digital rights organizations. Isedua Oribhabor, the US policy analyst at Access Now, a digital rights non-profit, told Business Insider that smaller platforms are usually not equipped to handle moderation endeavors and usually highlight their privacy policies in defense. While Weinstein has pointed out valid complaints with Twitter and Facebook about the types of speech its algorithm promotes, Oribhabor says this does not distract from its own challenges.

Recently, MeWe was home to several QAnon and nationalist groups, one of which, Patriots Unleashed, reportedly asked users if they were “armed and ready” before allowing them to join the group, Fortune reports. MeWe only removed the Patriots Unleashed group from its platform after Fortune published its story. Similarly, all of the radical right-wing individuals and groups mentioned in OneZero’s article were removed after publication.

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