By Nathan Worcester
Jeff Brain, CEO of the CloutHub social networking application, told The Epoch Times that freedom and liberty are being crushed in the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, and other countries across the planet.
“There are those that want to push for socialism and tyranny against those that believe in individual freedom and liberty. And that’s the struggle we live in right now,” he said in a July 21 telephone interview.
Spurred by a shadow ban
Brain was inspired by his own frustrations with social media to start a new platform.
Like many other users, he suspected he was being shadow-banned. In other words, his posts were partly or completely concealed from other users.
“I was being censored, and I just found that outrageous,” he said.
Even apart from censorship, Brain saw many problems with existing social media platforms.
“Many people acknowledge that they’re toxic. They invade people’s privacy, and they’re addiction mills,” he said.
Brain thinks that many alternatives to Big Tech share those same flaws. He wanted CloutHub to be different.
For one, when you click on a CloutHub user’s profile, you can’t see how many friends and followers it has. In addition, the site does not show how many views a user’s post has received.
Articles in its “News” section do, however, display views. (Full disclosure: The Epoch Times’ articles appear in the app’s news section, alongside sources ranging from The New York Times and Vox to The Washington Times and Breitbart News.)
Brain believes the constant exposure to metrics like post views can make people anxious while undermining civil conversation.
He aspires to create a “virtual kitchen table”—a network of Facebook Group-like Hubs where users can forge deep bonds around common interests.
Groups are organized into categories such as Faith, Politics, Music, Technology, and Health.
What Brain sees as a less-addictive design may translate to less user engagement. But, in his view, that is not necessarily a weakness.
“On our platform, people experience a little less interaction, but they’re doing real things,” he said.
CloutHub’s Google Play app ranks 4,316 in usage among all apps and 87 among social apps, according to SimilarWeb. (There is an iOS version as well.)
Brain said CloutHub has 4.5 million total users.
The platform, though open, is not wholly unregulated.
CloutHub prohibits doxing, harassment, and hundreds of words and phrases—mostly racial slurs and crude sexual language.
“We all know that the intention of Facebook and Twitter is not really about those [community standards]. It’s just a façade to silence people. But on my platform, hate is hate,” Brain said.
Users can also join anonymously, though they must prove their identity to become “Verified” users.
“We don’t believe in cancel culture, and we have to recognize that people are concerned, so if people want to use pseudonyms, they can use pseudonyms as their name,” Brain said.
Standing behind ‘global freedom coalition’
Brain says he connected Canadians protesting against COVID-19 mandates to GiveSendGo, an alternative to GoFundMe, because of the possibility that GoFundMe would not disburse donations to those protesters.
On Feb. 4, 2022, GoFundMe seized C$10 million ($8 million) in donations, stating that the fundraiser violated its Terms of Service. It pledged to “work with organizers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities chosen by the Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers and verified by GoFundMe.”
GiveSendGo’s website was hacked on Feb. 13, and the group Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoS) leaked a list of donors.
On Feb. 14, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act against the protests, the first use of that law in that country’s history.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the same day that the government would freeze bank accounts and halt crowdfunding linked to the protests through “anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules.”
After the GiveSendGo hack, Brain has started to build an alternative to the alternative: FundFreely.com, which he sees as “the counter to George Soros.”
He has also connected with farmers protesting climate mandates in the Netherlands.
Brain estimates he has spoken with 18 farm leaders on the phone, warning them that “the opposition is plotting against you while you’re sleeping, and you need to move fast, faster than you think.”
Canada and the Netherlands are just the start of what Brain sees as an emerging “global freedom coalition,” modeled on the non-violent resistance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He ticks off other examples: in Brazil, leftist factions in the government, the opponents of President Jair Bolsonaro, making it impossible for their enemies to get jobs or even to travel; in Portugal, Italy, and Germany, farmers rising in solidarity with the Dutch; in Australia, truckers slow-rolling in protest of vaccination mandates.
The Canadians have regrouped to continue their fight. On July 23, they will join a global protest in solidarity with the Dutch, including through a demonstration at the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Toronto.
“I believe that people everywhere should unite. I think freedom is under attack everywhere, including the United States,” Brain said.
Yet for all his concern about incursions on liberty, Brain radiates optimism about the future.
“I think they [the other side] overreached. I think you’re going to see the biggest push for individual freedom around the word that we’ve ever seen.”