The social media landscape constantly evolves. Users frequently jump from platform to platform as popularity shifts and new spaces to share information appear. Due to the increased presence of ads on popular platforms and interface changes, among other reasons, users are seeking out new venues for posting content at an ever-increasing rate. Even a seemingly innocuous tweet from a celebrity was enough to cause a $1.3 billion drop in the market value of Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., and lead users to abandon the app.

Vero – The Latest App Fighting for Market Share

The latest contender in the social media market is Vero, which has existed in relative obscurity since 2015. For those who may be unfamiliar, Vero is a social media platform that touts itself as ad-free. New users can sign up for free until further notice, with the expectation that late-comers will be required to pay a subscription fee.

One way Vero differs from rivals, such as Facebook, is that by default, it displays users’ feeds in chronological order rather than using an algorithm of most “important” or “relevant” posts and images. In theory, a chronological news feed benefits both ordinary users, as well as those searching for open-source intelligence. This is because there should be less clutter from advertisements and sponsored content. Users and researchers also do not have to worry about whether the platform has displayed everything there is to see or simply what it thinks you need to see.

The Backlash Has Begun

Despite Vero’s growth from approximately 200,000 users to nearly three million in just a few weeks, many considerations have caused some people to hesitate about using the platform. After the initial surge in sign-ups, some users began conducting their own due diligence on the company’s CEO and co-founder, Ayman Hariri. It was quickly revealed that Hariri is a former deputy CEO of Saudi Oger, a construction company founded by Hariri’s father. Saudi Oger reportedly left workers unpaid and stranded in cramped living quarters with little food, water or medical care in late 2015. The company has since been shut down by the Saudi Arabian government for “mismanagement.”

It has also been pointed out that some of Vero’s employees may be Russian and, given concerns about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, some users are reluctant to trust the platform with their personal information or to rely on it as a source of credible information. However, Vero’s CEO assured users there is little cause for concern regarding the nationality of the app’s developers.

The Importance of Keeping Up with the Trends

Despite some initial growing pains due to the influx of new users and the potential controversies outlined above, Vero seems to be hanging on – at least for now.

As an investigator, it is important to be aware of the changing social media landscape to ensure no stone goes unturned. Conducting this required due diligence is as important for investigators using social media platforms to gather information as it is for investors hoping to cash in on the next big app.

With the growing concern of “fake news” in all forms of media, the instinct to be apprehensive about trusting and using Vero is certainly not without warrant. Only time will tell if Vero will rise to the ranks of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat or is relegated to the graveyard of social media platforms like Ello and Myspace before it.

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