I’m Jim Fournier, a serial social entrepreneur with three decades of experience in tech and the co-founder and CEO of Tru Social. Today, I’m sharing the story of launching Tru Social.
Like most big ideas, Tru Social was a long time coming. The idea had its genesis in the early 2000s, at the Planetwork conference in San Francisco. The conference was attended by a wide variety of people, including computer professionals and activists who begin discussing the idea of a global online network that could help the world collectively solve societal issues; specifically, environmental issues and how to combat climate change, though the discussion rapidly expanded to include social and economic justice and true democracy. Over the following two years, we convened a group of 50 tech and media professionals, who met together and ultimately published the Augmented Social Network (ASN White Paper), an outline of the technical architecture needed to create shared online networks.
There was no single lightbulb moment. The origins of Tru can be dated back to the early ’90s. Over the past three decades, I have worked with many communities, co-founded several organizations, and collaborated with hundreds of people. Those conversations and experiences have all culminated in Tru: a collaboratively curated publishing space designed to help keep us all accountable and elevate truth. Here’s why we built it, and how it works.
Although the vision of Tru originated long ago and has been shaped by the expertise of leaders across industries and movements; it wasn’t until Netflix’s 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma, and COVIDthat society really began to understand the need for networks that both preserve our personal privacy and satisfy our need for social coherence and a shared sense of reality.
Prioritizing Personal Privacy
Personal data rights were a top priority for us when we set out to build a new kind of media platform. Every person using Tru can choose what to share and how to interact, without being tracked or profiled—ever. Recently, people have been saying that “data is the new oil.” Ironically, it may be the perfect metaphor, like fossil fuels, the existing data paradigm is based on extraction and monopoly that is actually toxic and dangerous. Tru is the new solar alternative. Not only is it cleaner, but it is also far more efficient and provides a better alternative. We can demonstrate that personal data is more valuable when all parties treat each other with mutual respect, rather than under a system based on people being exploited as “users”.
We built Tru to be a safe place on the internet for people to network and communicate without sacrificing their privacy. It’s a beautiful, protected, and civil alternative to traditional social media platforms that sell users’ information to advertisers—a platform free from ads, noise, and surveillance.
Battling the Corrosion of Reality
The second issue Tru solves is a genuine social dilemma: the corrosion of reality on social media. Disseminating inaccurate information is as simple as the click of a button, a difficult truth that came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coupled with the fact that the advertising model in social media rewards emotionally protractive, non-credible information, it couldn’t be clearer that we are in need new kind of social network.
We need a platform that helps us think together in new ways to solve universal problems. Social media creates the opportunity for mainstream understanding and collaboration if it’s used responsibly. It has the potential to eliminate professional gatekeepers of information and share critical, valuable insights. But only if, in turn, it battles the spread of misinformation.
All of the content shared on Tru Social can be checked, verified, corroborated, disputed, or invalidated by third parties. And all content is beholden to the Tru Line™, a chain of custody based on digital identity, privacy, and reputation that provides the foundation for validating content. Every piece of content can be traced back to the user who first posted it, and each user who published or promoted that content can be verified. Publishing on Tru anchors the author’s copyright and builds their reputation in networks of trust—providing a foundation for publishing credible content on the internet.
Leaving the Algorithm Behind
When we set out to create Tru Social, we knew one thing to be true: the algorithms aren’t working. Existing social media algorithms favor unvetted, emotionally compelling content that can be chock-full
of problematic misinformation. Trolls, fake news, and misinformation are ubiquitous, and the real culprit is the algorithms. The internal architecture of existing social media platforms threatens truth on a global scale.
So instead of building Tru on an algorithm, we created a new model where real social groups publish and subscribe to other groups. It’s a system where real, live humans hold other humans accountable—not an algorithm. On Tru, real people control the content flow, making it possible to separate credible sources from disreputable actors and confused individuals promoting misinformation, propaganda, and lies.
- Last Mile Team – Brand Story by Angel Batalla (Founder & CEO)
- Social Champ: Why & How I Launched It – Brand Story by Sameer
Emphasizing Environmental Covenants
Tru Social Inc. was founded in 2019 as a California Benefit Corporation, with environmental covenants written into its articles of incorporation. We know that failing to address environmental concerns is shortsighted, and Tru isn’t a shortsighted company.
Coming from a background in sustainability and climate change, environmental stewardship is one of the reasons I get out of bed in the morning. I want to create things that matter to the future in real ways, and Tru is no exception. We’ve written environmental values into our founding articles, which allows and empowers us to consider our environmental and data integrity covenants ahead of maximizing our profits. The promise that we are going to both prioritize environmental impacts and be an honest broker of data relationships, is part of our business model and charter.
- From the design of its interface to the internal system that enables users to hold each other accountable, Tru is at the forefront of bringing truth and trust back to the internet.
- “Our aim is to do the first major tech IPO by a Benefit Corporation.
In the deepest sense, Tru represents a new internet paradigm for how data works and is monotonized on the internet. Instead of surveillance-based advertising, we will offer a new model for transparent sponsorships along with a shared subscription pool.
It’s a structural alternative to existing social platforms, determined to fix society’s relationship with data. How data is exploited across the internet is an accident of history, and if we can fix that data relationship, everybody will be better served. Tru Social is currently in private beta testing. You can request to join here.