Geneva, 6 October 2020 — Craig Newmark is backing media organizations that are committed to public interest journalism. News organizations that support and elevate democratic ideals. Combating misinformation, analyzing how websites deploy trackers in visitors’ devices, fighting fake news, are some of the issues that are close to his heart.
What moves him? What are the challenges ahead for the news media nonprofits that he funded?
What is next? What areas will he be funding?
The UN Brief interviewed Mr. Newmark to find out more about his philanthropic endeavors.
Photo credit: Bleacher + Everard
“A democracy cannot survive build on lies.”
Mr. Newmark spent most of his life in the tech industry as a systems engineer, first at IBM, then in the financial-services industry. In 1995 he founded Craigslist, a curated email list for his friends and colleagues to discover art and tech events in San Francisco.
Doing Well by Doing Good
The initial newsletter evolved to be an online classifieds behemoth making him wealthy beyond his expectations. His unassuming demeanor, reflection of a personality for whom the ‘greed is good’ type of Silicon Valley creature, means not much, he has set his sights on supporting others to do work that matters for society and democracy, through the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund.
Since 2015 he has been actively supporting public service news outlets. In the last few years it has become even more pressing to support independent, trustworthy media organizations, in Mr. Newmark’s view.
But “trust is new black” has been his motto since at least 2010, when he gave this TedX talk.
His philanthropic endeavors are in four areas: veterans and their families, women in tech, news media, and voter registration, although not restricted to those, he has also partnered with NGOs to address food security issues for the most vulnerable in America, and nonprofits that work on refugee camps in Northern Africa, and Haiti.
Fighting Fake News and Online Harassment
In 2017, Newmark donated $500,000 to Wikipedia to mitigate harassment on the site.
In 2018, Mr. Newmark made a generous donation, no strings attached, of $1 million to Mother Jones news magazine, to support the publication coverage to address fake news.
In 2018 his donations totaled $143 million. That year he made also a $20 million endowment to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, now renamed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Add to that $20 million to fund the creation of The Markup, the nonprofit news organization focusing on the impact of Big Tech on the day-to-day life of citizens, with a founding team of data scientists and Pulitzer Prize winners.
In 2019, Mr. Newmark gave $10 million to Columbia Journalism School for the creation of a center for ethics and security. And, to date, according to CB Insights, $5 million to the Poynter Institute, and $8.5 million to The City, a local news site that covers New York, alongside the Charles H. Revson Foundation and the Leon Levy Foundation.
Mr. Newmark has contributed more than $40 million to journalism initiatives up to 2015.
Since 2016 it is estimated that he has donated $170 million to journalism-related initiatives.
Mr. Newmark also makes smaller grants to non-profits to combat misinformation and address election integrity: $1 million to ProPublica was to cover elections.
Initiatives on cybersecurity are also beneficiaries of his largesse, with $1 million to the non-profit Global Cyber Alliance, and $150,000 to Women in CyberSecurity. He also invested in Factmata, an “artificial intelligence company helping businesses better understand, interpret and explain online content.”
In 2019, he donated $6 million to Consumer Reports to fund the Digital Lab to focus on consumer privacy rights and digital security, and $250,000 to the authors’ nonprofit group, PEN America, to fight online harassment.
Newmark has served as an advisor or board member for the Sunlight Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Rock the Vote, Voto Latino, the Tech Policy Summit, the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Investigative Reporting, PolitiFact, Consumers Union and Girls Who Code, and many more.