Arts & Entertainment

Vero Only Just Began to Challenge Instagram, and Already It's Been Shot Down by Controversy

Its CEO, Ayman Hariri, once helmed a company that failed to pay thousands of Filipino migrant workers.
IMAGE Vero
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It's hardly even a thing yet, and already the social app Vero is, as the kids say, cancelledt.

Over the past two weeks, in the wake of the recent changes to Instagram's algorithm, Vero, a social media platform that first launched in 2015, rose through the ranks of the App Store and crossed one million downloads, scoring the top spot in the Social Media category in the States. Vero has been heralded as the next big challenger to Instagram, with a chronological feed, no ads, and no restrictive image dimensions—features that address users' biggest frustrations with the current top photo-sharing platform. Now Vero isn't without its technical flaws: glitches, bugs, and a dark and cluttered interface. Nevertheless, it managed to make some noise and convert some users in a very short span of time.

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But just yesterday, Vero's upward trajectory was shot down by allegations against its CEO, Ayman Hariri. Hariri, who is a Lebanese billionaire and the son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, has come under fire for the labor rights violations of his family's now-defunct construction company, Saudi Oger. The Daily Beast reports:

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"Before beginning his social media escapades, [CEO Ayman] Hariri served as deputy chief executive officer and vice chairman of his family’s now defunct construction company, Saudi Oger, a business that was the source of most of his family’s wealth [...] under Hariri’s watch over 31,000 complaints of non payment for wages were filed against the Saudi Oger.

The company was so negligent that in some cases the Saudi Arabian government had to step in and provide food and basic living supplies to workers spurned by the company."

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Several reports back in 2016 detail how, in the wake of an economic crisis triggered by a drop in oil prices, Saudi Oger refused to pay thousands of workers, including Filipino immigrants. And because many of these workers' residency permits are tied to their jobs, they were essentially left stranded in Saudi Arabia, unemployed, homeless, and unable to afford the flight back home. That year, Bloomberg even reported that one Filipino Oger employee hanged himself in despair.

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*The figure of 9,000 more likely refers to the estimate total of overseas Filipino workers in Saudi across different companies whose jobs were affected by the crisis. Oger itself claimed that it employed 7,580 overseas Filipino workers.

Vero itself has no such labor complaints against it currently, and its CEO has been quick to deny his involvement in the mismanagement of Saudi Oger. When Gizmodo came out with its own report on the issue, representatives of Hariri claimed that he had departed from the company long before the wage crisis. Gizmodo, however, found compelling evidence against that claim.

On top of this, it's also been reported that Hariri hired Russian developers to create Vero, which obviously did not sit well with its American user base.

As a result of this and other issues about the app coming to light, many have sworn off of Vero, and decided to delete it from their phones. So much for disrupting the social media landscape.

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