Mark Zuckerberg’s not wholly reassuring testimony before the US Senate did little to placate angry users wondering whether they should #DeleteFacebook. But where to go if you leave a social media platform with two billion users, close to a third of the world’s population?
While a friend of mine opted for full social media cold turkey, most aren’t ready to kick the habit completely. The cool kids deserted Facebook for Instagram and WhatsApp some time ago but, as these are both owned by Facebook, they don’t feel like a genuine alternative for those worried about Zuckerberg’s reach into their lives.
A truly different social media experience probably requires a different business model. As we now know: if the service is free, you are not the customer but the product. Twitter, Snapchat and others operate on the same advertising-led model as Facebook and are vulnerable to the same problems.
To make sure our data is not being harvested we might — gulp — have to face paying for social media use. So what are the options? Vero began as a competitor to Instagram in 2015, gaining traction with users who liked posts appearing in their news feed chronologically rather than ordered by an algorithm. Earlier this year, numbers began a steep rise from 200,000 to more than four million, with many of these switching from Instagram.
Founder Ayman Hariri has said a paid model will make it clear to customers that they, not advertisers, are in charge. As the billionaire son of Lebanon’s late former prime minister, he may have more scope to experiment with this than most. But in the prevailing climate, ethical consumers demand good behaviour as well as good business plans. As Vero’s numbers rose, allegations surfaced of mistreated workers at Saudi Oger, the construction company that was the source of Hariri’s wealth, although the 39-year-old has said that he had left the company before the incidents in question.
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