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Former Republican National Committee finance chair Todd Ricketts launched Freespoke, an alternative to Google, earlier this year because he believes Americans have a “duty to protect” free speech.
“When free speech is under attack, our whole society is under attack,” Ricketts told Fox News Digital.
“A few years ago, as I was looking for things in searching on the Internet, I felt like I just wasn’t getting results that I expected… I felt like it kind of like was these biased results, and so I started talking to other people and… other people sort of felt the same way,”
Ricketts, who is also the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, said things like the National Rifle Association were buried on traditional search engines, so he decided to do something about it.
“I was like, ‘This doesn’t make sense,’ and then when you see what’s happening in like the big tech world of taking people off platforms or moving videos or suppressing information, I just feel like as an American, we have a duty to protect free speech,” Ricketts said.
“Free speech is an important part of our society, and I don’t know who bestowed upon these big tech companies that they were going to be the purveyors of what people get to see, and so we just said, ‘You know what? This room, this industry needs a little competition,’” Ricketts continued. “I think you’re seeing that there’s other people who agree, you know, there’s other alternative social media platforms that are coming out there to counter the Twitters and the Facebooks and the YouTubes and Googles of the world.”
Ricketts, who serves as Freespoke CEO, believes it’s important for Americans to remember Big Tech companies are “not government institutions” and shouldn’t have the power they currently possess.
“No one officially ever bestowed upon Google and Twitter and Facebook to say, ‘This is what people ought to see and this is what people ought not to see,’ but they’ve kind of taken it upon themselves to do that,” he said. “I just think at a certain point, that becomes very dangerous.”
Ricketts is concerned that Americans have no clue who is pulling the strings at Big Tech juggernauts, and companies such as Google don’t share anything about their algorithms. He isn’t sure that executives from these behemoths purposely cater to left-leaning results, but has noticed that many things that have been censored or deplatformed have a conservative tilt.
“That trend is kind of troubling to me, but it’s also an indication of where these guys who started these companies come from. I don’t think they started their companies, or run their companies, with the idea of saying, ‘We’re trying to suppress content from a particular point of view,” he said. “They just do it naturally.”
Freespoke, which uses a privacy-friendly product analytics tool, aims to “deliver a better way to search for what’s going on in America and the world-at-large,” according to its website, and encourages Americans to find out what’s going on before forming an opinion.
“We’re trying to like, you know, give people a free speech search engine that lets people see their own sides. I have a lot of faith in Americans to consume information and come to their own conclusions,” he said before dismissing critics who think attempting to offer an alternative to Google is a fool’s errand.
“It’s like, well, after McDonald’s, I don’t know if we need Shake Shack, but it’s certainly carved out a space for itself in this planet,” he said.
Ricketts said Freespoke only needs a sliver of the “massive market” of people who use the Internet to use the service in order for it to be a viable company, but it could make a positive impact on Americans simply by existing.
“It really just has to be out there well enough to give people an alternative, right? One of the positive impacts that we could have, even if we don’t have everyone coming to use our search engine to search for their news and whatnot, is to get companies like Google to curb their behavior,” Ricketts said.
Freespoke launched with little advertising and had 500,000 users during August, and it has grown by an average rate of 51% month-over-month. Ricketts is aware that the free-speech messaging appeals to conservatives but thinks people from all political viewpoints would prefer Freespoke if they gave it a shot.
“We’re on a great path. It’s going to take us a little while to catch up with Google and the other search engines out there. But I think there’s a demand for it,” Ricketts said. “I think our product is definitely for everyone.”
In addition to putting an emphasis on free speech, Freespoke also bans porn and adult content. Ricketts realizes that it’s “kind of a funny idea” that a platform against censorship would censor pornography, but believes the decision is part of a larger mission to bring Americans a family-friendly place to search and consume news and information.
“We live in, sort of, these uncertain times, and we feel like there’s a demand out there, among a big group of Americans who want to inform themselves and want to be able to pull information from different sources and have that information right in front of them to make up their own mind,” he said. “We’re just trying to serve Americans a product that we think they want.”
Freespoke is now available.
Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report.