MeWe, the privacy-oriented social networking site, wants to make MeWe a more trusted alternative to Facebook. The investment firm McCourtGlobal contributed $15 million to the Series A round. MeWe has now raised $27M. Twelve million dollars was also contributed by other investors. MeWe’s total value is $200 million.
Along with other alternative social media networks like Parler, MeWe gained a lot of traction following the November 2020 presidential election and January 6 insurrection as a space for right-wing extremists to congregate more freely after they’d been kicked off Facebook. MeWe had 2.5 million more users in the week ending Jan. 11, 2021. The platform currently has 20 million.
But now, CEO Jeffrey Edell is aiming to reach a much broader audience by focusing on MeWe’s firm stance on privacy and looser content moderation rules. According to the Privacy Bill of Rights, users hold all their information. MeWe claims that it does not alter, filter or modify users’ newsfeeds or employ facial recognition technology. Its business model is subscription focused, rather than ad-supported, like Meta’s.
Edell said that MeWe is open to free speech provided they are respectful. Edell said that MeWe was criticized for being a site that hosted right-wing content, which had been removed from Facebook. MeWe also hired additional people to the moderation team. Also, MeWe implemented AI that detects hate speech and calls for violence. The platform also now bans accounts that sell guns, a decision for which Edell said he’s received a lot of pushback. However, a cursory search for terms like “stop the steal” and “gun sale” brings up several related groups and posts.
Edell, who previously served as chairman of MySpace’s parent company Intermix and joined MeWe as CEO in April, acknowledged that he was wary of joining the company at first. He says that he discovered there wasn’t much extremist content after researching the site.
“I looked at my wife and she looked at me and she said, ‘You’re not going to get involved in a platform that has these kinds of issues, are you?’” Edell tells SME. “When I did my diligence and I really looked into it, I found that that was a very small portion of the platform.”
“Every platform out there, I don’t care who it is, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok they all have their issues,” he says. “I found that the issue was not as widespread as previously thought about.”
However, the problem is even worse for MeWe. That’s why Edell is aiming to use the new funding to invest in better marketing (though the company says that won’t include ads on Facebook or Instagram).
“We’re finding that what we do resonates with people out there and people don’t even know we exist,” Edell tells SME. “So it’s a continuation of getting a marketing push to get the information out there of who MeWe is, and what we stand for.”
Edell stated that MeWe will be more popular if more people know about it and create accounts. While you don’t have to pay to use MeWe, the service offers a premium subscription for $4.99 a month or $29.99 annually and is the first thing advertised when users create their accounts. You get unlimited video and voice calls, unlimited stickers and custom emojis as well as 100GB of storage. Story video journals can be created, custom themes added, and you will receive a premium badge for your profile. Some of the features offered by ad-supported platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook already come for free.
Part of MeWe’s marketing budget will go to encouraging users to upgrade to premium subscriptions. The company refused to reveal how many users it had or their revenue.
Edell, in addition to his work overseeing MySpace’s operations, is also a veteran of showbiz, having produced movies such as The Grey’s Kids Are All RightAnd National Lampoon’s Movie Madness. His background is in tech and entertainment, and he wants to make the platform more accessible with short-form videos and music. MeWe currently partners with entertainers and influencers to make NFTs. Edell stated that this will happen at a later time.
“I felt like I was there at the beginning of social media,” Edell said. “I don’t like what’s happened to it since the MySpace days. Now I want to try to change the world and bring social back to the way it used to be.”