Best friends create app to help curb political extremism

Tiger Solomons-Tibi is Jewish and Kevin El-Sayed is Christian with Middle Eastern heritage


Kevin El-Sayed and Tiger Solomons-Tibi, creators of the Pollstr app

Two friends - one Jewish and the other Christian with Middle Eastern heritage - have founded a new app which seeks to curb political extremism through educating users on the policies of UK political parties.

Pollstr, which Tiger Solomons-Tibi and Kevin El-Sayed describe as a “tinder-style” voting app, presents users with policy proposals of each party, allowing them to swipe on those they might agree or disagree with, feeding an algorithm that narrows down which party most aligns with them.

Solomons-Tibi, 25, who is Jewish and was instrumental in campaigning for his alma mater UCL to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism in 2019, says the app can act as a moderating or deradicalising tool, helping to reduce antisemitism in the United Kingdom by “curbing the rise” of extremist parties.

“Many people don’t really know what the parties actually want to do when in office. By focusing on policy instead of the personalities of politicians, the app helps users make more informed decisions and thus are less likely to vote in favour of populism,” he says.

London-born Solomons-Tibi says that he and El-Sayed, 24, who lives in Dubai, are non-partisan. “We don’t take sides. We just think if people are more educated then they are less likely to make extremist choices.”

“For all the rhetoric espoused by party leaders ahead of elections, ideas and policy are what’s important in the end.”

The pair stepped up efforts to finish the app and make it available for free on Apple once Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a snap election in May.

Being the one who was more naturally interested in politics, Solomons-Tibi was tasked with the monumental job of go through every policy of each party.

“I read through all of them, every single one. I began going through policies and party manifestos in May, and there were some 580 policies each party put forward at that point."

"So, it was 580 digestible descriptions of policy I had to write, 580 links to attach, find all the spelling mistakes and make sure everything was kept consistent throughout.” El-Sayed, meanwhile, was tasked with coding the app.

Policy can be a bit of a dry subject, the app’s creators say, and is often not conducive to the attention span of young people today, who expect shorter, more “digestible” sources of news.

“These day’s everything is quick,” says Solomons-Tibi. “It’s the way young people enjoy consuming. They like swiping on apps and on-demand entertainment on TikTok. This app seeks to recreate some of those preferences but in an educational way.”

The two best friends met as teenagers when they both lived in France, where “extremist positions are more common”, he says.

That shared experience led them to see the need for a space in the UK that attempted to “make people more politically literate to combat these populist forces”.

El-Sayed, who is of Franco-Egyptian ancestry with some Palestinian heritage, says their respective backgrounds serve as “a great example of two guys who are worried about extremism on all sides and are convinced that by being more knowledgeable you can fight these forces.”

The UCLA graduate asserts that for young people, who are increasingly getting their news entirely from apps like TikTok or Instagram, there is “a real danger of being targeted and manipulated”.

Old people too, says El-Sayed, are “bombarded with misinformation and viral snippets of populist leaders” via social media. “We believe that the more you know about the policies, the less risk there is to be manipulated online.”

Solomons-Tibi, who returned to London seven years ago, admits it can be “dangerous” to start business projects with friends because the relationship can be threatened if things go wrong, but “thankfully nothing has, and our friendship has only been reinforced throughout this process”.

El-Sayed agrees, saying that “working with my best friend from school has been fantastic for me. Knowing that we can both rely on each other is what pushed me to get the project over the finish line.”

“In a working relationship, it is always important to have a yin and a yang. Our differences in background and culture make us stronger and a more balanced duo.”

For Solomons-Tibi, the biggest benefit of joining forces has been the trust they have for one another. “He believes in me, and I believe in him. We are very truthful to each other; there’s no filter, and we listen to and respect one another’s decisions. In the end, we both love each other.”

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