News Highlights: Tech has a bill. Tech investors? Not so much.
They were also indirect beneficiaries of the Capitol uprising, with spikes in users as a result of President Trump’s deplatforming by the mainstream services, his surrogates and accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy.
In some cases, public pressure has led to action. DLive, a cryptocurrency-based video streaming site, which was acquired by BitTorrent’s Tron Foundation in October 2020, accounts, channels and individual broadcasts suspended or permanently banned after the Southern Poverty Law Center identified those who were live streaming the attack from within the Capitol.
Neither Tron Foundation, which owns DLive, nor Medici Ventures, the Overstock subsidiary that invested in Minds, responded to requests for comment.
EvoNexus, a Southern California-based tech incubator that helped fund the self-proclaimed ‘non-biased’ social network CloutHub, forwarded our request for comment to CloutHub’s PR team, who denied that the platform was being used at planning the uprising. They said a group that started on the platform and promoted by founder Jeff Brain was only for organizing ride sharing to the Trump rally on January 6. The group, he said, “ was for peaceful activities only and asked members to report anyone who spoke of violence. . ”
But there is a fine line between speech and action, said Margaret O’Mara, a historian at the University of Washington who studies the intersection between technology and politics. When as a platform you “decide that you are not going to take sides, and you become an unobstructed platform for freedom of speech,” and people saying “terrible things” result in action, then platforms have to take into account that “we act as a catalyst for this, we will become an organizing platform for this. ”
“Maybe you won’t get a deal flow”
According to O’Donnell, investors are for the most part concerned that expressing an opinion about those companies could limit their ability to close deals, and thus make money.
Even venture capital firms “depend on pools of money elsewhere in the ecosystem,” he says. “The concern was that you might not get a deal flow,” or that you would be labeled “hard to work with or, you know, pick someone who could do the next round of your business.”
Despite this, O’Donnell says he doesn’t believe investors should avoid alt tech altogether. Tech Investors love disruption, he explains, and they see the potential in alt-tech to “break up the monoliths.”
Could that same technology be used to coordinate people doing bad things? Yes, it is possible, just as people use phones to commit crimes, ”he says, adding that this problem can be solved by having the right rules and procedures.
“There is some alternative tech whose DNA is about decentralization, and there is an alt-tech whose DNA is about a political perspective, ”he says. For example, he doesn’t see Gab as a decentralized platform, but rather as “a central hosting hub for people who otherwise violate the terms of service of other platforms”.
“It’s going to piss in the wind … because that guy will be in there.”
‘The internet is decentralized, right? But we have the means to create databases of bad actors, when it comes to spam, when it comes to denial of service attacks, ”he says, suggesting that the same could be true for bad actors on alternative technology platforms.
But to overlook the more dangerous sides of these communication platforms, and how their design often allows for dangerous behavior, is a mistake, O’Mara says. “It’s a kind of escapism that comes from the reaction that powerful people in technology … have, and that’s right, if we alternative technologies, as long as we have a decentralized internet, if we just have Bitcoin ”… everything will get better.
She calls this position ‘idealistic’ but ‘very unrealistic’ and a reflection of ‘a deep-rooted slice of Silicon Valley culture. It goes all the way back to, ‘We don’t like the world as it is, so we’re going to build this alternative platform on which social relationships can be revised. ”
The problem, O’Mara adds, is that these solutions are “very technology-driven” and are “mostly enunciated by some pretty privileged people who … are struggling … a lot of social politics. So it doesn’t really take into account structural inequality or other systems that need to be changed. “
How to have “a transformational effect”
Some believe tech investors can change what kind of businesses are built, if they choose.
“If venture capitalists pledge not to invest in predatory business models that incite violence, it would have a transformational effect,” says McNamee.
On an individual level, they could ask better questions even before investing, O’Donnell says, including avoiding companies with no content policies, or asking companies to create them before a VC signs up.
Once invested, O’Donnell adds that investors can also sell their shares, including at a loss, if they really want to take a stand. But he recognizes the great commission this would mean – after all, it’s very likely that a fast-growing start-up will just find another source of money to step into the space that a principled investor has just left. “It’s going to piss in the wind,” he says, “because that guy will be in there.”
In other words, a real settlement among VCs would require a reorientation of how Silicon Valley thinks, and at this point it still focuses on “one and only one metric that matters, and that’s financial returns,” says Freada Kapor Klein .
If funders changed their investment strategies – for example, to introduce moral clauses against companies that profit from extremism, as O’Donnell suggested – the impact this would have on what start-up founders pursue would be enormous, O’Mara says. “People follow the money,” she says, but “it’s not just money, it’s mentorship, it’s how you build a business, it’s this whole set of principles about what success looks like.”
“It would have been great if VCs who pride themselves on risk taking, innovation and disruption… were at the forefront,” concludes Kapor Klein. But this tsunami is coming. And they will have to change. ”
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