James Ward is a lawyer, privacy advocate, and fan of listing things in threes. Nothing he says here should be considered legal advice/don’t get legal advice from social media posts. He promises he’s not as smug as he looks in his profile picture.
As we head into Web Summit this year, we get a lot of questions about Bright and what we're doing. We thought it would be helpful to answer two of them here, and set out a kind of marker about what the company is doing. You can (and should!) read our other materials, but for now, here's a very quick explanation of what we're about.
That's the question we hear the most frequently -- people wanting to know why we think that it's the right time to build a different kind of social network. Between the pandemic, recession, the worst capital market in years, widespread mistrust of social networks, and the fragmentation of online media consumption, it's not an unreasonable question. In fact, it's exactly the right question to ask, because the answer is implicit in the question:
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If not now, when?
This is the exact moment when a genuinely social network would stand out the most. It isn't just a question of the problems on other social networks, although they are definitely a factor. Disinformation, polarisation, exploitative content, abuse, manipulation, erosion of privacy -- the litany of harms gets longer each day, and nearly all of it is a product of considered decisions. Social media doesn't have to be this way, but the large players have made the choice to allow it to be this way, to make money from ads.
But more than the negative "we're not the other guys" mentality, Bright is about an affirmative belief that social media can, and should, be good. At heart, we believe in social networking and the concept of online connection. If you think about it, it's the natural extension of what we do every day: we build networks with each other, engage socially, and try to find ways to entertain, amuse, and help one another. We do it in our everyday lives offline, and there's absolutely no reason why we can't do it online too. It's just a question of having the opportunity.
We're certainly not the standard Silicon Valley lineup. A UK-based, woman-owned-and-led group of professionals with long careers in other fields, we bring a very different perspective to the startup space. And, importantly, as parents to a large (sometimes seemingly infinite) number of kids, we're used to operating with the perspective that other people's needs come before our own. Those two facts drive what we do: honed professionalism and an ingrained commitment to putting the needs of the community first.
Each of us has our own backstory and focus that brings us here. Taryn, our founder, is a trained lawyer and has years' of experience working with private companies and nonprofits to deliver their message in a time when social media noise can drown out their voices. She has laid out the vision for Bright as a project and community, as well as the strategic and operational course to achieve that vision. Steve Jones, our COO, is a world-renowned public health figure and project manager, who has consistently delivered on fighting misinformation and operational hurdles in times of crisis. James Ward, our CIO, is a lawyer, author, and data strategist who has advised startups and publicly-traded companies alike on privacy and data products. Mina Aletrari, our head of research, is a biologist with a deep background in large set analytics focused on driving a data-driven approach to features and practices. And Trevor Chariter, our head of cybersecurity, is a decorated career Army Intelligence officer and infosec specialist, focused on protecting Members and Bright alike from risk.
Our team has published nearly a dozen articles and books, has ten children, speaks eight languages, has lived and worked across six continents, and have worked on Bright together since its inception in late 2020.
It's easy to be cynical about social networks, but that doesn't mean that it's time to give up on social networking. Our view is that social media users are desperate for something new, something better. It takes vision and commitment to make market readiness into a phenomenon, and that's exactly what we bring. Which brings us back to what we said in the beginning -- if not now, when?
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