It took less than 48 hours for Vero to enter the public consciousness before questions were raised about its legitimacy, coming under fire for being owned by a Lebanese billionaire.
Because apparently, anything developed outside of the United States is the equivalent to signing up to the axis of evil.
What is Vero?
Vero is a new social network that steals the best aspects of Instagram, Facebook and GoodReads and combines it into a platform with chronological feeds, “no ads, no algorithms”, and is partly subscription funded, allowing it to prioritise customers over advertisers and investors.
It has actually been around since 2015, but over the last four days Vero ‘suddenly’ shot up in the App Store rankings moving from number 566 to number 1. The source of Vero’s sudden surge has not been explained, but a feature spot on the App Store – (paid?) – and a glut of tech press can’t have hurt.
The Lebanon / Saudi Arabia / Russian Connection
Co-founder of computer entertainment studio, Thinko, Pasquale De Silva tweeted earlier today that Vero is built by “a squad of (poorly paid) Russian developers”, hired by Lebanese billionaire, CEO Ayman Hariri, who is also deputy CEO of construction firm Saudi Oger, a company accused of mismanagement, corruption and wage theft. He is also the son of slain Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.
🤔 VERO is built by a squad of Russian Developers FYI pic.twitter.com/dZsrKp2FHt
— Pasquale D'Silva (@pasql) February 26, 2018
Vero also employs only one woman out of its 23 listed employees.
‘Do your research before signing up’ seems to be the catchcry, shaming and embarrassing early adopters and discouraging the curious from making the switch.
Vero is also backed by a US investment firm, Scott Birnbaum’s Red Sea Ventures, but that matters less, apparently. Because only companies founded in America have the right to rip-off customers and staff.
Selective virtue signalling
Corrupt, unethical practices of Hariri’s ‘other company’ notwithstanding, the outcry over his audacity (“He wants a new social media app, because he’s bored? Endless supply of helicopters not cutting it for ya buddy?”), claims the whole thing is a sham and the blatant scare tactics being used to discourage uptake epitomise the hypocrisy and McCarthyite xenophobia that is permeating the public consciousness at present.
It’s just an app. Concerned your email address and phone number will be the linchpin to some underground information war? Guess what? You’re already signed up to that. It’s called Facebook.
Might I just remind you that Facebook, Twitter and Google are actively censoring their platforms on behalf of the White House, its intelligence agencies and the media publications which support them.
We are already sharing our information with the NSA, CIA and any of the Five Eyes nations the US is sharing information with. I doubt there’s an intelligence agency in the world that hasn’t captured your latest post on why Bernie would have won.
If you’re so concerned about foreign influence, might I suggest saving your energy and lobbying for campaign finance reform? Lebanon and Saudi Arabia don’t need you to sign up to some new social media platform for its foreign influence to succeed. They can simply buy a Senator. Or a President.
The actual US / Lebanon / Saudi Arabia connection
I’m amazed people suddenly care about foreign influence of Lebanon at all, given it is one of America’s biggest customers. No kidding. Google it. The White House has been providing military aid to Lebanon since 2006 to help it bring Syria to its knees, and Assad with it.
Lebanon also hosts offices of more than 160 US businesses including Microsoft, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, FedEx, UPS, General Electric, Cisco, and Pepsicola.Time to give up air travel, courier services, cola, electricity and internet security, then. If we’re to practice what we preach, that is.
As for Saudi Arabia, the US government has spent years helping it bomb Yemen back to the dark ages, selling it arms and providing intelligence for Riyadh’s brutal air war. It also imports thousands of barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia. Where was the outrage then?
Of course, I encourage consumers to be selective and informed about the companies they support, but if we’re so concerned about the pernicious influence of foreign oil tycoons, might I suggest you stop driving your car. They use foreign oil too. (Guess where it comes from?) In fact, you’ll need to stop using any products derived from petroleum. And if you’re concerned about exploitative work practices then I’m afraid you’ll need to consciously uncouple from McDonalds and Amazon, Macy’s, Starbucks, Sears, TJ Maxx, Target and Walmart as well.
And it turns out the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing in fossil fuels and working with USAID to increase control over the global seed sector. It has been accused of ‘skewing aid priorities in favour of corporate globalisation’, using its financial clout to silence development experts that have criticised its practices.
And guess who sits on Facebook’s board? Susan Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Need I remind you that Twitter’s fourth largest investor is also a Saudi Prince, Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz. So I guess it’s time to call quits on Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft now too. Amazing how selective we can be with our moral outrage.
Join Vero, don’t join Vero. Just don’t for a second think that your technology or consumer choices are in anyway noble.
Specialising in economics, technology and policy, Connelly is working on her first book due out in 2018.
With more than a decade of experience under her belt, Claire has written for leading publications including The Australian Financial Review, The Saturday Paper, ABC, SBS, Crikey, New Matilda, VICE & others. She is the co-host of The Week In Start-Ups Australia, and features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio shows including Radio National's Download This Show, ABC's The Drum, Ten's The Project, and more.