On Sunday evening, former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton endorsed Verrit, a “media platform for the 65.8 million” who supported her candidacy, immediately creating a minor Twitter firestorm.
Clinton’s decision to hawk Verrit is regrettable for a number of reasons, including that this site looks like a terrible bet in an already over-saturated media economy which is shedding platforms and publishers left and right.
Verrit’s underlying concept is simple: Users are able to package quotes, factoids and other bits of text into easily shareable social media cards. The cards come with a seven-digit authentication code which can be verified on the website, supposedly ensuring social media users will be able to check to see the information contained within is accurate.
Verrit describes itself on its website as a “sanctuary in a chaotic media environment” in which Clinton supporters can find refuge from the nebulous concept of fake news and Donald Trump’s dim-witted online hordes:
Verrit’s purpose is to become their [supporters’] trusted source of political information and analysis; to provide them (and anyone like-minded) sanctuary in a chaotic media environment; to center their shared principles; and to do so with an unwavering commitment to truth and facts.
The 65.8 million tagline, of course, is a not-so-subtle reference to the number of votes Clinton received in the 2016 elections. Essentially, it’s yet another contribution to the endless relitigation of an admittedly awful election season that ended nearly a year ago.
The site is run by Peter Daou, an extremely sketchy former Clinton digital adviser with a complicated backstory in web publishing. After the site was quickly driven offline by what Daou claimed was a “pretty significant and sophisticated” distributed denial of service attack, he spent most of the next night tweeting randomly capitalized diatribes suggesting he was not entirely aware the election was over.
For a startup like this to work, it has to have a clearly defined mission, a valuable product and an engaged base which actually has an interest in using the platform long-term. Verrit has none of these.
Verrit’s stated mission is to become a “trusted source of political information and analysis,” but it does not immediately appear to be a news organization or even a hub for analysis. At launch, the Verrit account was mostly sending out random quotes from famous Americans with not-so-subtle headlines. One might assume the linked pages have some type of attached article or reporting, but as is plain from archived pages, clicking on a Verrit link just leads to the quote or factoids and a series of links to other websites.
As Verrit does not appear to have much social media functionality beyond generating the cards for later dissemination on other sites, it’s unclear how it could possibly provide “sanctuary in a chaotic media environment.” It’s more or less a link dump.
Second, as for the product, social media cards are not an innovation and are not enough to carry a tech company—take for example Whisper, the largely forgettable app which generated cards from anonymous users, and which laid off much of its staff and lost its entire board this year. Verrit basically offers the same stuff Someecards does, except at least Someecards is a hub for original humor in the form of parody Hallmark-style greeting and invitation cards.
Also, Someecards had this idea in 2007.
As for the value of its verification process, as the New York Daily News noted, Daou and crew have not elaborated on “how or who would be fact-checking the work.” Since Verrit generates static images, it’s not clear anyone who stumbles across its content will actually have any interest in writing down the codes to verify said content on its page—even generously assuming the Verrit card has original information worth verifying in the first place, and not just random quips and observations pulled from Wikiquote.
The Institute for Progressive Memetics, a left-wing satirical group which recently joined Twitter, has already made a parody Verrit generator which allows anyone to create fake cards indistinguishable from the real ones. This immediately led to a deluge of Twitter comedians and trolls uploading fabricated quotes, like attributing pro-Bernie Sanders statements to Daou, who really hates the senator from Vermont.
The Next Web noted, “Daou wants us to pepper our online debates with these pictures? Does he not realize that will make reasonable people—both on the left and the right—immediately switch off, just like they do when they get an email that starts with RE:FWD:FWD:RE:RE:RE:RE?”
As for the long-term, dedicated userbase, look: Many, many people are extremely angry about the outcome of the 2016 elections, and there’s growing evidence that it might not have just been a mud-slinging dirt fest but actually subject to Russian interference and possible collusion by members of Trump’s team and family.
But there has to be a future for politics beyond 2016, especially for the Democratic Party, which is still reeling and has yet to rally around a coherent strategy that can translate its anger over the new administration into electoral momentum. The thing about people who lose presidential elections is that their star tends to fade—and this goes double for Clinton, who lost to a guy formerly best known for racism, selling as-seen-on-TV steaks and a lengthy parade of business disasters.
Where’s the future in that?