MeWe is an American alt-tech social media and social networking service owned by Sgrouples, a company based in Culver City, California. MeWe's light approach to content moderation has made it popular among American conservatives, conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaxxers.[1][2][3] Due to concerns with possible pro-China censorship of Facebook, the site also gained popularity in Hong Kong in November 2020.[4]

MeWe
TheMeWeLogo.png
Type of businessPrivate
Available inMultilingual
FoundedMay 16, 2012 (as Sgrouples)
Headquarters,
U.S.
Area servedWorldwide
Founder(s)Mark Weinstein
Key peopleMark Weinstein (CEO)
IndustryInternet
ProductsMeWe; MeWePro
URLmewe.com

The site's interface has been described as similar to that of Facebook, although the service describes itself as the "anti-Facebook" due to its focus on data privacy.[2][5][6]

Platform

Features

By 2015, as MeWe neared the end of its beta testing cycle, the press called MeWe's software "not dissimilar to Facebook".[7] In 2020, Mashable described MeWe as replicating Facebook's features.[2]

The MeWe site and application has features common to most social media and social networking sites: users can post text and images to a feed, react to others' posts using emoji, post animated GIFs, create specialized groups, post disappearing content, and chat.[8]

Online chat may occur between two or more people or among members of a group.[8] Person-to-person online chat is similar to that in most other social media and social networking sites, and supports text, video calling, and voice calling.[9] "Secret Chat" is limited to the paid subscription tier of MeWe,[10] and uses double ratchet encryption to ensure that chats are private and not visible even to MeWe employees.[8]

MeWe reported in June 2018 that the site had 90,000 active groups, 60,000 of which were "public" and open to all users.[10] Following the influx of Hong Kong users in 2020, MeWe CEO Weinstein announced that the website would provide a Traditional Chinese language version by the end of the year.[11]

User base and content

United States

Although MeWe has not intentionally positioned itself as a social network for conservatives,[2][3] Mashable noted in November 2020 that its active userbase trends conservative.[2] The platform's choice not to moderate misinformation on the platform has attracted conservatives who felt mainstream social networks were censoring their posts, and those who have been banned from those platforms.[2][3][12] MeWe is considered an alt-tech platform.[13][14]

MeWe's loose moderation has made it popular among conspiracy theorists, including proponents of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, which was banned from Facebook in 2020, and the "Stop the Steal" conspiracy theory relating to the 2020 United States presidential election.[2][3][12][15] According to Rolling Stone, MeWe has "played host to general interest communities related to music and travel, but it has also come to be a haven for anti-vaxxers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and, as reported by OneZero, far-right militia groups."[3] Vice has described MeWe as a "major anti-vaxx forum".[1] BBC News has described some of the content on MeWe as "extreme" and compared it to that of Gab.[16] Business Insider has reported that some of the most popular groups on MeWe focus on "extreme views, like anti-vaccine rhetoric, white supremacy, and conspiracy theories" and that in 2020 the platform was used to organize anti-lockdown protests.[12][17][18] According to Megan Squire, groups belonging to the Boogaloo movement began using the platform after their removal from Facebook.[18]

Shortly after the 2020 United States presidential election, MeWe and other alt-tech platforms experienced a wave of signups from Trump supporters, following crackdowns on election-related misinformation and promotion of violence on mainstream social networks.[19][20] On November 11, MeWe was the second-most downloaded free app on the Apple App Store, behind its fellow alt-tech social network Parler.[2] However, Mashable noted MeWe's practice of creating accounts on behalf of users and businesses who were not users of the site may have served to inflate the amount of activity on the platform.[2] MeWe and other alt-tech networks again spiked in popularity shortly after the January 6, 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, though this subsided shortly after, with downloads falling more than 80% from January to February 2021.[21]

On January 22, 2021, MeWe's CEO said in an interview with NPR that "MeWe is serious about putting limits on what people can say" and that he doesn't like sites where "anything goes", describing such sites as "disgusting". He also said that MeWe would be hiring more moderation staff. In the coverage, NPR noted that MeWe's stated rules are still "more lax than Facebook and Twitter," and that MeWe had not yet banned groups dedicated to QAnon.[22]

Hong Kong

MeWe gained popularity in Hong Kong in November 2020 with users migrating from Facebook due to concerns with possible pro-China censorship and moderation.[4][23] The popularity of MeWe in Hong Kong has been attributed to the city's suspicion of any restraint on free speech, after the Chinese government imposed significant restrictions on the expression of dissent following the 2019–20 protests, including the Hong Kong national security law. MeWe communities in Hong Kong generally reflect everyday-life interests, with social media consultants in Hong Kong reporting that they have not seen extremist content in the communities they manage.[24]

Reception

In a 2015 review of the beta MeWe service, British writer John Leonard called MeWe "well-designed and pretty intuitive", but questioned whether the company's business model was a viable one.[7] Andrew Orr, reviewing the site in April 2018, felt that service was a good one but that it did not have any advantages over existing social media sites. That, he felt, would make it difficult for MeWe to attract users.[9]

In 2019, science communicators Rachel Alter, Tonay Flattum-Riemers, and Lucky Tran wrote in a column in The Guardian that anti-vaccination activists, if banned entirely from mainstream social networking sites, might "go underground" by moving elsewhere, and that anti-vaccine figures "are already talking about moving their platforms to alternative sites like MeWe."[25] In 2020, data scientist Wong Ho-wa criticized the site for its lack of multi-factor authentication.[23] MeWe intends to add support for two-factor authentication in the first or second quarter of 2021.[24][needs update]

Business

In 1998, entrepreneur Mark Weinstein established SuperGroups.com, a social media website. The site was closed by its largest investor in 2001.[26] Gathering largely the same leadership team, Weinstein incorporated Sgrouples Inc. in 2011.[2][26][27] MeWe was incorporated as a subsidiary of Sgrouples,[27] and based in Culver City, California.[10] Over the next six years, Sgrouples raised about $10 million from investors including lynda.com founder Lynda Weinman, fashion designer Rachel Roy, and authors Jack Canfield and Marci Shimoff.[8][10]

MeWe finished its initial financing round in July 2018 by raising $5.2 million in new funds.[8][10] The company began work on upgrading MeWe and initiating work on an enterprise version called MeWePRO.[8]

MeWe emphasizes its commitment to privacy and remaining ad-free.[2][10] MeWe has said they will never use cookies or spyware to generate content about users, and that it will not track user activity in any way or sell user data to a third party.[7][8] MeWe has described itself as the "anti-Facebook" due to its focus on data privacy, lack of moderation, and simple newsfeed algorithm.[5]

The MeWe business model does not rely on advertising revenue; rather, MeWe generates revenue from subscription fees and by selling custom emoji.[8][9][28] In December 2019, MeWe announced it would be introducing a premium tier and a separate two-tiered enterprise tier includes voice and video conferencing, as well as integrations with Office 365.[8][28][29]

Mark Weinstein is the founder and chief executive officer of MeWe.[30] Advisors to MeWe include computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee and filmmaker Cullen Hoback.[31][32]

References

  1. ^ a b Gilbert, David (November 12, 2020). "Conservative Social Media Sites Are Creating a Giant Right-Wing Echo Chamber". Vice. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Binder, Matt (November 11, 2020). "What is MeWe? Everything you need to know about the social network competing with Parler". Mashable. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e Dickson, E. J. (November 12, 2020). "'Free Speech' Social-Media Apps See Enormous Growth After the Election". Rolling Stone (in American English). Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  4. ^ a b 嚴熹曼 (2020-11-20). "MeWe懶人包|不似Facebook多廣告、有審查 MeWe十個功能特點比較|科技玩物". 香港01 (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Archived from the original on 2021-01-26. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  5. ^ a b Graham, Jefferson (July 4, 2020). "Done with Facebook? Consider MeWe, Parler or old standbys such as LinkedIn". USA Today (in American English). Archived from the original on January 13, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  6. ^ Leonard, John (April 14, 2015). "Social media without the snooping—nice idea but can it really work?". Computing. Archived from the original on January 22, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Leonard, John (April 14, 2015). "Social media without the snooping—nice idea but can it really work?". Computing. Archived from the original on January 22, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chen, I-Chun (July 5, 2018). "Facebook alternative MeWe raises $5.2 million in funds". L.A. Biz. Archived from the original on December 5, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Orr, Andrew (April 19, 2018). "Review: MeWe is a Private Social Network Taking on Facebook". Mac Observer. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Amore, Samson (July 7, 2018). "Facebook Alternative MeWe Raises $5.2M". Los Angeles Business Journal. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  11. ^ "Tai Po大埔12萬人Facebook群組一夜被滅 稱涉仇恨言論 網民籲轉場MeWe". Apple Daily 蘋果日報 (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Archived from the original on 2021-01-18. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  12. ^ a b c Leskin, Paige (November 6, 2020). "Trump supporters are flocking to alternative social networks to plan election-office protests after Facebook banned groups that attracted hundreds of thousands of members". Business Insider. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  13. ^ Wilson, Jason (January 13, 2021). "Rightwingers flock to 'alt tech' networks as mainstream sites ban Trump". The Guardian (in British English). ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on January 15, 2021. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  14. ^ Cohen, Jason (January 15, 2021). "How Mainstream Social Media Data Collection Compares With Alt-Tech Rivals". PC Magazine. Archived from the original on February 16, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  15. ^ O'Sullivan, Donie (6 October 2020). "Three years later, Facebook says it will ban QAnon". CNN. Archived from the original on 6 January 2021. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  16. ^ "Parler 'free speech' app tops charts in wake of Trump defeat" (in British English). BBC News. November 9, 2020. Archived from the original on November 9, 2020. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  17. ^ Leskin, Paige (May 3, 2020). "Anti-quarantine protesters are being kicked off Facebook and quickly finding refuge on a site loved by conspiracy theorists". Business Insider. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  18. ^ a b McKay, Tom (February 24, 2021). "Your Travel Guide to the Rudderless Right-Wing Web After Trump". Gizmodo. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  19. ^ "Trump supporters move 'Stop the Steal' organizing to MeWe and Parler". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2020-11-12. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  20. ^ Isaac, Mike; Browning, Kellen (November 11, 2020). "Fact-Checked on Facebook and Twitter, Conservatives Switch Their Apps". Archived from the original on November 14, 2020. Retrieved November 12, 2020 – via NYTimes.com.
  21. ^ Monroe, Madeline (March 16, 2021). "Social media platforms on the right fail to maintain post-Jan. 6 growth". The Hill. Retrieved March 16, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ Bond, Shannon (2021-01-22). "Fast-Growing Alternative To Facebook And Twitter Finds Post-Trump Surge 'Messy'". NPR. Retrieved 2021-01-24. I don't like sites that are anything goes," Weinstein said. "I think they're disgusting. Good people right and left and middle can't handle 'anything goes.' We don't want to be around hate speech. We don't want to be around violence inciters.
  23. ^ a b 佘錦洪 (December 2, 2020). "棄Facebook改投MeWe 港人為言論自由掀轉場熱潮". Apple Daily 蘋果日報 (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Archived from the original on 2020-12-01. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  24. ^ a b "How Hong Kong Became a Testing Ground for an 'Anti-Facebook' Movement". Vice. Archived from the original on 2021-01-09. Retrieved 2021-01-11.
  25. ^ Tran, Lucky; Alter, Rachel; Flattum-Riemers, Tonay (March 5, 2019). "Anti-vaxx propaganda is flooding the internet. Will tech companies act?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 5, 2019. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  26. ^ a b Fontana, John (August 7, 2012). "Will Sgrouples end social networking's attack on privacy?". ZDNet. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Company Overview of Sgrouples Inc". Bloomberg. February 26, 2019. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  28. ^ a b Brown, Shelby (December 13, 2018). "Can MeWe become the anti-Facebook of social media?". CNET. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  29. ^ "Subscription-based social network MeWe launches premium features and a business product". TechCrunch (in American English). Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  30. ^ Brown, Shelby (December 13, 2018). "Can MeWe become the anti-Facebook of social media?". CNET. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  31. ^ Leonard, John (April 14, 2015). "Social media without the snooping—nice idea but can it really work?". Computing. Archived from the original on January 22, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  32. ^ Orr, Andrew (April 16, 2018). "The Father of the Web is Backing a Private Social Network". Mac Observer. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.