Jimmy Wales Founds New Charitable Social Net, Phone Service

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is making another attempt to transform social media with a new social network and phone service that enables people to support charitable causes. The social network is called “TPO” for “The People’s Operator,” a mobile phone service that allows customers to donate part of their phone bill to their favorite non-profit.

The People’s Operator phone service has already been in operation in the UK since 2012, but this marks its debut on this side of the pond, where it is using Sprint’s mobile backbone to support a number of different specialty subscription plans. One of the plans, “Unlimited Goodness,” offers unlimited text and voice for $32 per month, in addition to donating 10% to a designated charity. The People’s Operator has also promised to donate a quarter of its profits to charity.

The associated TPO social network component, which is new in both the U.S. and UK, is an ad-free platform that aims to bring together people around causes that matter to them, including organizing and raising funds. The social network, which Wales said loosely resembles Twitter,  is launching with a number of organizations already on board. Importantly, TPO emphasizes that it won’t try to take a skim off the top for fundraising efforts.

Like Twitter, TPO allows users to post status updates, share photos, and create groups focused on issues and projects, as well as supporting crowdfunding efforts. No surprise, one of the ways to raise funds is inviting other people to subscribe to The People’s Operator phone service.

In a blog post announcing the new social network, Wales underscored its explicitly non-commercial ethos : “Existing social networks treat you as a commodity to be sold to advertisers. This leads naturally to intrusive use of your data and an inherent conflict between what you want and what advertisers need.”

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