EXCLUSIVE: ‘Minds’ Social Network Founder Discusses the Decline of Big Tech


Breitbart Tech recently had the opportunity to speak to open source social network Minds‘ founder Bill Ottman, who explained the differences between Minds and free-speech centric social media site Gab and discussed why Big Tech is failing.

Charlie Nash: What differentiates Minds from more authoritarian social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter?

Bill Ottman: Minds uses free and open source software to provide its community with complete transparency and control over social media decisions. Minds is also anonymous and encrypted end-to-end to protect user privacy. Minds users earn points just by using the app to spend boosting their content, and Minds users make money by exchanging cash for subscriptions and sharing content. In addition, Minds does not filter content and delivers 100% of subscribed content to all newsfeeds. Minds creators establish exclusive content available by paid subscription and generate revenue for fan engagement on the network. Minds maintains a free speech policy based on US law.

CN: How does Minds differ from Gab? Have the two companies ever had a conversation together about alt-tech and the need to fight back against censorship?

BO: We haven’t had a conversation with Gab, but wish them the best with their legal issues. While there is some alignment with regards to free speech policy based on US law, Minds differentiates itself from Gab in a number of key areas. Minds is a complete platform versus microblog format. Minds features include video, groups, blogs, live messenger, group chat, mobile apps, peer-to-peer payments, paid promotion, affiliate programs, paid memberships, digital currency, user rewards, and an ad network.

Minds Wire enables content creators to make money via subscription and one-time payments. We have a full suite of monetization tools so creators can promote their work to the network and earn revenue through tips, paid subscriptions, promoting other channels, ads, and our affiliate program. Support for Minds Wire is largely global across 25 countries.

Minds allows users to reach 100% of their subscribers without falling victim to any restrictive algorithms.

Minds users earn points just by using the app to spend on boosting their content across the network or gifting to their favorite content creator.

Minds is non-partisan. Since we launched Minds in alpha in 2012, we have always attracted an audience from across the political spectrum, including progressives, libertarians, centrists, and non-political content creators. One user even conducted a study about this.

Our live messaging feature is fully encrypted. We have zero knowledge or access to the content of our users’ conversations. We feel this is essential to counter surveillance and data mining.

Minds is free and open source software. This is a foundational difference that delivers greater transparency, privacy, and peer-review capabilities. In our opinion, if a platform is not built using free and open source software, it is not a viable long-term option.

Free speech on Minds is based on US law, but users control their own experience with powerful reporting, filtering, and blocking tools that render unwanted channels and content invisible.

CN: Has Minds ever faced any problems from domain services, etc, over content on the platform? If not, do you think it will?

BO: We haven’t had any issue with domain services. We have worked extremely hard to engineer Internet freedom into Minds and have built powerful tools for users to control the content they see. Hashtags, categories, subscribing, geolocating, blocking, reporting, and filtering tools all enable Minds users to curate their own custom feed.

To support more aggressive content policies regarding free speech such as on Google and the Apple App store, Minds delivers a moderated feed compliant with app store guidelines.

Minds web app users may select ‘open mode’ that displays all boosted content uncensored including content that could be potentially be deemed offensive. Minds’ free speech strategy is to support legal content creation and also provide users with the fine grain controls and tools to block or filter content they deem offensive from their own feed.

CN: Where do you think platforms like Facebook and Twitter will end up if they keep heading down the same route?

BO: Unless these types of platforms transform their practices to put social media users first, and start being respectful of user rights, they will continue to lose the users’ trust and become less relevant. Ethical practices include transparency through open source code, privacy and security through end-to-end encryption, cooperative corporate outreach, and revenue sharing.

CN: Do you think alt-tech has a shot at taking on Big Social?

BO: Alternative technology platforms only have a chance if they don’t fall into the same traps as big social. These traps include politicization, centralization, proprietary software (closed-source), censorship, secrecy, surveillance, and lack of revenue sharing and cooperative infrastructure. Many alt-tech platforms also fall into some of these traps, so it isn’t as simple as putting us all into one bucket because we align on a single component.

CN: What plans does Minds have for the future?

BO: We are continuing to grow and expand monetization by allowing users to earn money for their efforts online. We will continue to improve the many features we have plus add capabilities including massive advances in video, voting, chat, advertising, analytics, blogs, monetization, search, and more.

CN: How can sites like Minds ensure that the platform doesn’t become an echo chamber. How can you attract left-wing users who are less likely to join?

BO: Minds operates today with a balance of users from across the political spectrum, and Minds users are in control of the content they see. The recent wave of censorship on mainstream social networks has driven many to seek alternative platforms. We are not taking sides left versus right. But we are taking sides relative to freedom and privacy. In most cases, people who are censored only become further polarized and simply move to a new place that allows their thoughts and ideas to be shared. This is how most echo chambers are created in the first place. Minds believes that open dialogue is the most effective method to help reduce the divide and help us evolve. Dialogue is the only way for us to face our issues head on and question each other, learn from each other, and work to find common ground.

Our goal at Minds has always been to attract users from all across the political spectrum and build an environment for constructive dialogue, and thus far we have been successful in doing so.

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington and Gab @Nash, or like his page at Facebook.


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