MeWe Sold Itself on Privacy. Then the Radical Right Arrived.
‘Have you tried to moderate 15 million people?’ MeWe founder Mark Weinstein told OneZero
“I’m an American who is sick and tired of you traitors,” an account going by the name Chuck Testa posted on MeWe, an alternative social network popular with far-right extremists, two days after the Capitol riots. “Did you think we weren’t going to fight back… There is no place for you. You must be purged,” they continued, writing in the chatroom for a Stop the Steal group of more than 2,700 members. Testa’s proposed solution to the nonbelievers? A “firing squad.”
Across MeWe, movements such as Stop the Steal and QAnon, along with right-wing militia groups, have taken root as mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter make sweeping gestures, arguably too late, to rid their own platforms of rampant abuse. OneZero observed dozens of posts endorsing or encouraging a violent response to post-election events on the platform over the past two months. And in messages posted to Parler, Telegram, as well as Facebook and Twitter, which have deplatformed some far-right communities in recent months, MeWe has been actively endorsed by some Trump supporters claiming that they’re victims of “censorship.”
MeWe’s membership has grown in recent months to roughly 15 million users. And while its competitors Parler and Gab have been banned from app stores and booted by hosting companies for failing to moderate hate speech, MeWe’s website and mobile app remain untouched. It now stands to inherit disgruntled users, some of them identifying with armed militants and conspiracy movements.
The creator of MeWe says he never wanted to build a home for unfettered speech. Instead, MeWe was envisioned as a privacy-focused Facebook alternative. That explains why the company’s board is currently made up of a wide swath of mainstream figures, including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee; Dany Garcia, president of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s production company; and Jack Canfield and Marci Shimoff, authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.