'Anti-Facebook' app MeWe sees surge in downloads amid Big Tech scrutiny

MeWe bills itself as social media app centered around data privacy

MeWe, a social media app centered around data privacy, has seen a surge in downloads in recent weeks as Big Tech companies crack down on user content.

The app that calls itself the "anti-Facebook" added 2.5 million new users last week, bringing its total userbase to 16 million -- 50% of which live outside the U.S., MeWe spokesperson David Westreich told Fox Business.

"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," Westreich said. "MeWe solves these problems."

He added that the platform "is the new mainstream social network with all the features people love and no ads, no targeting, no newsfeed manipulation, and no BS."

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MeWe, which said it surpassed 8 million users in June, ranked No. 7 overall and No. 4 among social media apps by U.S. iPhone downloads on Jan. 10, according to mobile data and analytics provider App Annie.

The week prior to that date, MeWe sat outside the top 1,400 apps overall and at No. 66 among social apps, App Annie found.

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The app on Thursday sat at No. 14 among social media apps on the App Store and No. 13 among all free apps on Google Play after several days of skyrocketing downloads.

The app told ZDNet that its usership spikes frequently when people are looking for an alternative social media app to Facebook, Twitter and the like that does not infringe on the privacy of its users.

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The website's "About" tab says MeWe users have control over their own interaction and privacy settings, and the platform does not sell or share user data with advertisers.

"The big technology companies, you know who they are, had reverted to treating [users] as commodities," MeWe's website states. "They somehow mistook people signing up to use their services as a welcome invitation to target, track, spy, and sell our information to advertisers and the government. All in all, it felt pretty creepy."

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MeWe aims to offer an alternative to those websites by offering "decency, privacy, and respect for social media users."

Other social media and communication apps with a focus on privacy have also seen surges in downloads over the last two weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

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Big Tech companies including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have made a number of policy changes and updates since the riot in an effort to quell violent or conspiratorial rhetoric on their platforms.

The policy changes have promoted social apps that do not censor content or emphasize data privacy like Parler, DuckDuckGo, Signal and Telegram to see spikes in user numbers.

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Encrypted messaging app Signal, for example, ranked No. 1 among overall and social media apps by U.S. iPhone downloads on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10. The week prior, it ranked No. 927 among overall apps and No. 45 among social apps, according to App Annie.

DuckDuckGo, a search engine and Google alternative that does not profit from user data, hit No. 1 among overall U.S. iPhone downloads and No. 1 among utility apps on Jan. 10, up from No. 308 and No. 14, respectively, the week before.

"These types of shifts in messaging and social networking apps are not unusual," Amir Ghodrati, director of market insights at App Annie, said in a statement. "Due to the nature of social apps and how the primary functionality involves communicating with others, their growth can often move quite quickly, based on current events. We’ve seen growing demand over the last few years for encrypted messaging and apps focused on privacy."