Catalytic Capital | September 24, 2018

Craigslist founder backs news site to cover Big Tech’s impact on society

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, September 24 – Former ProPublica investigative journalists Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson are planning to launch a new news organization, called The Markup, to uncover and report the impact of big tech on society. Their idea is getting a $22 million grant-funded boost, with $20 million from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark alone. 

The Markup, which will likely launch in early 2019, intends to explore issues like discriminatory software and algorithms and the spread of misinformation. The new endeavor comes at a time when traditional news organizations are struggling to stay afloat, much less become financially viable, and to compete in a time of political polarization, digital noise and misinformation.

The Markup’s particular area of focus, however, cuts to the heart of those issues. While the aim is to heighten awareness and scrutiny of big tech activities, Newmark told the New York Times that he believes it will also help Big Tech become more self-reflective.

“Sometimes it takes an engineer a while to understand that we need help, then we get that help, and then we do a lot better,” Newmark said. “We need the help that only investigative reporting with good data science can provide.”

In addition to Newmark’s grant, the Markup has raised $2 million from the Knight Foundation and additional funding from the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative.