Jimmy Wales, the founder of user-created dictionary Wikipedia, is planning on opening a new social media platform, and the biggest difference is that his platform will be user-financed.
The platform, called WT: Social, is a response to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media giants that draw their income from data mining their users and allowing advertisers access to their audiences. This has created a sort of outrage culture that has bled out into the real world. Outrageous content get the most clicks, which makes it very profitable. But it's also the kind of content that incites people and enables the worst people to have the loudest voice.
"The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic," Wales told Financial Times. "It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content.
"Wales had tried it before with the site WikiTribune, which published news articles that had been written and fact checked by the community. The website hadn't gotten much traction but it will be folded into the new social media platform. Unlike other social media platforms, where stories with the most "Likes" get a bump from the algorithm, WT: Social will prioritize new articles.
"Instead of optimizing our algorithm to addict you and keep you clicking, we will only make money if you voluntarily choose to support us – which means that our goal is not clicks but actually being meaningful to your life."
One of the biggest controversies about social media is that they've allow extremist ideologies and hate groups to fester. "We will foster an environment where bad actors are removed because it is right, not because it suddenly affects our bottom-line," he said.
WT: Social went live a month ago and has about 50,000 users. The platform will eventually be free to join, but new users signing up are put on a waiting list unless they contribute to the website. "Obviously the ambition is not 50,000 or 500,000 but 50m and 500m," Wales stated.
This isn't the first time Wikipedia leaders have addressed social media. In early 2019, fellow Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger called for a social media boycott platforms for two days in July and wrote a "Declaration of Digital Independence."
"We possess the digital rights of free speech, privacy, and security," said Sanger at the time. "Like old King George, Big Social Media have systematically abused our rights."