Catholic Entrepreneurs Take On Problem of Security in Social Media
It’s a jungle out there on the internet — what’s a Catholic to do?
Picture this: You’re browsing the posts at Facebook, and you inadvertently click on an ad for a new kind of dog food. Next thing you know, you’re getting multiple ads each day for canine treats and toys and soft dog beds.
Or you’re reading your email, and up pops a sleazy, hyper-sexualized ad.
It’s a jungle out there on the internet! Spammers and hackers can see what pages you’ve been viewing, then adjust their aggressive ad campaigns accordingly. They can too easily access private information and steal your identity. You (and your young and impressionable children) can find yourselves confronted with X-rated materials. What’s a Catholic to do?
Two Catholic entrepreneurs believe they’ve found a solution to the problem of security breaches and internet privacy. Together, Michael DiStefano and Kailash have founded Fidei.email, an innovative social media platform that promises to respect your privacy while screening out vulgar and offensive content. The men are both converts to Catholicism — Kailash from Hinduism — and they wanted to create a platform that was not antagonistic toward faith.
Both Michael and Kailash had worked in Silicon Valley, in many different capacities, and both had heard complaints from friends and associates about the values and morality that were evident in major tech companies. By supporting tech sites such as Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp, people worried, they were giving money to powerful organizations that were doing something wrong.
Fidei co-founder Kailash talked recently about their objective in creating the new site, and about their vision for the future. “We think there are a lot of problems to be solved on the internet,” Kailash said, “but for the time being, we’ve chosen to focus on email as the best option. After some experimentation, we discovered that unlike other platforms, email can be controlled whether you’re the first user or the thousandth user.”
The Fidei website explains further: “Email has been undermined by privacy concerns and questionable marketing tactics for years. We made Fidei to reclaim email and serve the faithful with an honest email service made by those who share your Catholic values.”
Michael and Kailash began their ambitious project at the beginning of 2022. The first week, Kailash reported, they sent 100 emails; by mid-March, that number had grown to 3,000 emails in a single day. Among the unique features of Fidei.email is spam protection; furthermore, Kailash explained, they will not release personal information or email addresses to advertisers. Protection from profanity is more difficult, because while the company prefers email that is free from objectionable contact, they do not scan the content of subscribers’ personal email messages — so an individual could still send an objectionable message. In that case, the recipient could block the sender or respond personally, requesting that he refrain from sending offensive content.
Subscribers to Fidei.email will pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee, but the advantage over other platforms is that Fidei will not sell your email address or use the platform to distribute spam.
While the Fidei site currently offers only private, protected email, Kailash reported that they’re hoping to expand into other products. At this early stage, Kailash said, “We’re trying to understand what is really, truly necessary. We’re also interested in providing a fully online Catholic financial service — a credit union. And we may eventually provide a wireless service for Catholics.”
Many children today have smart phones — and often, what comes with a smart phone is a full-throttle interest in “adult” content. Parents may attempt to impose limits on their children’s phones, but it can become a game of “cat-and-mouse,” with children trying to outsmart their parents and find ways around the rules. Fidei’s phone could come equipped with low-level technology which would not show pornography.
Kailash hopes that Catholics will be eager to support the Fidei project. He noted that many consumers seek to purchase products that align with their moral values — for example, by choosing clothing which has been manufactured by companies which respect their employees and pay a fair price for their labor. Many consumers prefer to purchase food in environmentally friendly packaging. Consumers in other verticals are often willing to shop with these values in mind.
Similarly, Fidei offers a product that is aligned with Catholics’ shared values. As Kailash said, “We’re hoping to be the beginning of a greater movement of Catholic people supporting Catholic businesses.”