It seemed like exactly the tech startup that so many conservatives said they wanted.
AllSocial was an emerging social media network that garnered more than a million users, in part by alluding to the unfounded claim that existing sites like Facebook and Twitter censor conservative political thought. AllSocial users could connect with new friends with the understanding the site would never limit how far a user’s posts would spread based on their politics, an apparent reference to allegations that Republicans repeatedly have made against Facebook and Twitter.
“Viewpoint censorship is when creative expression is suppressed, removed or banned on the internet,” said a June 13 post from the AllSocial Facebook account. “Unlike other social media platforms we do not ban or shadow-ban users based on personal or political beliefs. Yep, that’s the AllSocial way.”
The site and its two mobile apps have been down for more than a month, though, after the revelation that an outsider had claimed to access AllSocial’s proprietary source code.
While the site apologized for any inconvenience and implied it would return soon, its homepage remained offline and neither the iOS nor Android apps appear to be functioning. In the weeks since, Twitter users have questioned the company about its sudden disappearance and wondered whether it will return.
Meanwhile, a close inspection of AllSocial’s financial filings reveals that the company is run in part by an influential donor to right-wing political causes. The donor, Ken Eldred, is perhaps best known for his connections to United In Purpose, a religious organization that supported Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. However, cybersecurity researchers previously accused the same group of failing to secure 191 million U.S. voter records, leaving scores about personal data on unwitting Americans available to outsiders.
Now, the sudden disappearance of AllSocial is raising questions about what happened to users’ data. (The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. Phone calls to numbers listed on the company’s financial forms went unanswered.)
The AllSocial site launched last year, accompanied by apps available in the iOS marketplace and Google’s Play store. The goal, it seems, was to provide an alternative to existing social media sites while guaranteeing users that their friends would see every post they made, rather than have their reach impeded by a mysterious algorithm. AllSocial also promised users it would never sell their data.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan. AllSocial featured an interview with Donielle Mikel, a personal-beauty video blogger with more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, and in April hosted an interview with Chad Prather, a conservative podcaster who recently has posted videos with titles like “Texas Must Open!” and “We Have a Culture Problem, Not a Race Problem!” Another marketing campaign promised to enter AllSocial users who downloaded the app, and followed a specific account into a raffle to win $1,200.
The first sign of trouble arrived in a June 8 tweet in which AllSocial revealed that an unnamed developer claimed to have accessed the company’s source code. “We do not believe it is true,” the tweet went on. “If it is true, it is an old version. It will not have an impact on AllSocial’s security or application.”
The tweet generated only a single retweet and four likes as of Monday afternoon. AllSocial doesn’t appear to have provided any other details about the incident in subsequent communications on the company’s Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook pages.
By June 19, the service was offline for a maintenance update, and still has yet to return.
In the weeks since, researchers on Twitter have examined publicly available data about AllSocial, detailing the company’s ties to right-leaning political donors.
Financial documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show the company was incorporated in Idaho, with Mark Weimer listed as AllSocial’s executive officer, and Ken Eldred as a director. Weimer previously operated Strategic Media 21, a targeted advertising firm based in Idaho that dissolved last year. Eldred is listed as the director of Strategic Media 21 in financial documents submitted in California in 2018.
Eldred, meanwhile, is the founder of Inmac, a publicly traded technology marketing company that he sold in 1996. He’s now listed as the co-founder and CEO of the Living Stones Foundation, a nonprofit that “exists to serve Jesus Christ by providing financial and strategic resources” to religious-oriented projects.
Eldred also was listed in 2018 as the chairman of education for United In Purpose, a voter mobilization organization that targets evangelical-minded voters with sponsored breakfasts and other efforts meant to boost conservative candidates’ political prospects. Vice President Mike Pence attended a United In Purpose lunch in 2018, and the group’s strategy relies in part on using data mining to identify potential supporters ahead of the 2020 election, according to The Intercept.
United In Purpose also appears to be the source of a database of records about 191 million Americans, according to Chris Vickery, an independent cybersecurity researcher. The records contained names, birth dates and a range of other personal details that would be relevant to a voter mobilization organization group, Vickery said.
Later, the U.S. Department of Justice said that a similar database of 191 million voter records turned up for sale on a Russian-language cybercriminal forum.