A socially responsible Facebook ‘replacement’? Investor launches a competition to fund one

Facebook has faced fresh controversy this week when founder Mark Zuckerberg said Holocaust denial should not be banned on the platform. Meanwhile, concern around data privacy has spiralled following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A new competition seeks designs for a ‘social network that is actually good for society’

Facebook has faced fresh controversy this week when founder Mark Zuckerberg said Holocaust denial should not be banned on the platform. Meanwhile, concern around data privacy has spiralled following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A new competition seeks designs for a ‘social network that is actually good for society’

A prominent Silicon Valley investor has launched a competition to find an alternative to Facebook – or, as he puts it, “a social network that is actually good for society”.

Jason Calacanis, an investor in Uber, announced the Openbook Challenge in April. “This is not an idea or business plan competition,” reads the challenge’s website. “We are looking for teams that can actually build a replacement, and we will be judging them based on their ability to execute.”

The competition has now closed and a shortlist of seven teams will be announced in September. Each will receive a $100,000 (£75,000) investment and be hosted on a 12-week incubator course to help them execute their ideas.

We are looking for teams that can actually build a replacement, and we will be judging them based on their ability to execute

Their task? To build a billion-user social network capable of replacing Facebook and protecting consumer privacy at the same time. The competition was launched when Facebook was embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal surrounding use of people’s personal data. The furore did not prompt too many users to ditch Facebook, however: an estimated 2.2 billion people around the world use the platform, whose stated mission is ‘to bring the world closer together’.

But the Openbook Challenge website describes Facebook as “a destructive force in our society”. It reads: “We want to invest in replacements that don’t manipulate people and that protect our democracy from bad actors looking to spread misinformation.”

Image: Thought Catalog

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