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Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
Source: Bleacher + Everard
Craig Newmark made his fortune off a web site, based in 1995, that served as an early on-line bulletin board and appears prefer it hasn’t been up to date in 20 years.
That web site, Craigslist, is nonetheless cranking alongside, that includes residence listings, an energetic jobs board and gadgets on the market. But the privately held firm has lengthy been surpassed in worth by the likes of Airbnb, LinkedIn and Facebook Marketplace, which all face Wall Street’s calls for for progress and revenue.
Though Newmark’s web firm could also be outdated, his issues about the place the trade is headed are most actually not. Since the 2015 debut of Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the entrepreneur has donated many millions of dollars to numerous causes involving media and know-how.
Most just lately, his group contributed $3 million to assist fund a brand new synthetic intelligence and schooling initiative from Common Sense Media, the nonprofit informed CNBC this week.
“While I attempted to pay some consideration to what was happening, simply all the things caught me unexpectedly,” Newmark mentioned, referring to the present increase of generative AI and all the brand new and clever chatbots.
Newmark, 70, spoke to CNBC as he was recovering from a minor coronary heart process he went by in late August. The coronary heart ablation required Newmark to put on his again “the entire time within the improper place” and he “awakened with rather a lot of again ache,” he mentioned.
More than the surgical procedure, Newmark wished to speak in regards to the hospital meals.
“Hospital pudding is actually good,” he mentioned. “And since they served my lunch chilly, I requested them and obtained extra containers of pudding.”
Newmark, who ran his enterprise out of San Francisco however now lives together with his spouse in New York, mentioned the hospital keep did not trigger him to mirror a lot on mortality, as he’d already addressed such existential points when he determined to simplify his life by giving away a lot of his Craigslist riches.
Newmark’s basis has principally targeted on donating to organizations and causes pertaining to journalism, combating misinformation, countering on-line harassment, cybersecurity points and supporting veterans and navy households.
The fast evolution of AI and its potential hazards has just lately caught Newmark’s consideration, and his cash.
The purpose of Common Sense’s AI undertaking is to supply an AI rankings system for folks, educators, coverage makers and regulators to allow them to consider what makes sure instruments like OpenAI’s ChatGPT protected or unsafe for kids. Additionally, the nonprofit is providing on-line AI literacy programs meant to assist mother and father and educators educate primary AI fundamentals to youngsters.
The full scope of AI’s capabilities and potential for societal hurt turned extra clear to Newmark by the point firms started “modifying engines like google to make use of generative AI.”
“I noticed that if a search engine was utilizing sources that weren’t reliable, if the sources have been about mendacity to individuals, that might create an enormous, moral downside, and you actually do not need a information supply of any kind to knowingly lie,” Newmark mentioned.
Newmark is involved that dangerous actors will use generative AI to extra simply amplify and unfold disinformation. At the identical time, he is apprehensive that tech firms, significantly in social media, “aren’t even attempting anymore to get rid of stuff they know is dishonest,” he mentioned.
Tech firms like Meta, Amazon and X (previously generally known as Twitter) just lately laid off numerous trust-and-safety workers as half of main cost-cutting initiatives, however have mentioned that the downsizing will not have an effect on the protection of their platforms.
Meanwhile, AI has the potential to profoundly have an effect on society, just like the web and the printing press earlier than it, Newmark mentioned. That’s an space the place he has notable experience. Craigslist was each massively disruptive to newspapers and their labeled advertisements sections, and has been a web site that is attracted criminals and scammers.
Few individuals predicted the “dangerous makes use of” of the web, which has allowed nefarious actors to “principally mislead individuals in giant numbers,” Newmark mentioned.
“I suppose the income to be made in being a very good skilled liar, these income have tremendously elevated as a result of the web is an enormous amplifier,” Newmark mentioned. “It’s everybody’s printing press, and also you get to make use of it as a printing press, whether or not your intentions are good or dangerous.”
Newmark mentioned he turned focused on language-generating software program like ChatGPT within the early Seventies, “when individuals have been starting to speak about language understanding and neural networks.” However, he says, “I did not actually perceive it.”
Now the know-how is right here and spreading quickly.
Newmark mentioned he does not need to title names in terms of the organizations he fears are creating probably the most societal discontent by AI, as a result of he is beforehand been scarred for getting that particular.
“In the previous when I’ve identified main issues, I’ve discovered the onerous means that I’m no match for somebody who lies for a dwelling,” Newmark mentioned. “So, I’m permitting myself to be chickens—.”
Rather, he mentioned he depends on “people who find themselves each braver and smarter” to name public consideration to these issues.
“Protecting children in terms of AI is an enormous challenge,” Newmark mentioned, concerning his donation to Common Sense Media. “I do not know how I might go about getting began, however I do know the place to place my cash the place my mouth is.”
Why Common Sense?
“Rather a lot of teams and politicians discuss defending children,” Newmark mentioned. “But these guys are the true deal, and so I’m serving to them.”
Newmark acknowledged that the matters of misinformation, journalism and content material moderation have develop into extra polarized and politicized of late. House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, alleged that tech firms unfairly censor conservative speech, and he is undertaken a “censorship investigation” to probe suspected ties between the manager department and sure technologists and researchers.
Several teachers beforehand informed CNBC that the politicized panorama has led to some organizations reducing again on funding analysis into combating misinformation for concern of being publicly criticized.
“Some individuals are backing off, some individuals are getting braver. Again, I’m not very courageous,” Newmark mentioned. He highlighted the Knight Foundation and Ford Foundation as organizations which can be “doing courageous issues.”
Within journalism, Newmark’s most high-profile endeavor is the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School in Journalism. The program was renamed in 2018 after Newmark endowed the school with a $20 million reward, although he made prior contributions in 2016 and 2017.
He additionally donated $20 million in 2018 to assist fund The Markup, which describes itself as a “nonprofit newsroom that investigates how highly effective establishments are utilizing know-how to alter our society.” That undertaking shortly turned controversial after founding editor-in-chief Julia Angwin mentioned she’d been fired over email by co-founder and government director Sue Gardner.
Still, Newmark says each the CUNY journalism college and The Markup have been profitable, whereas different efforts “haven’t been profitable, and I’m being discreet about them as a result of I’m nonetheless attempting to assist earlier than I’ve a lot sterner talks.”
He pegs his philanthropy success fee at “70 or 80%, which is good, nevertheless it’s not 100.”
In phrases of the place he spends his time on-line, Newmark mentioned he nonetheless posts on X, primarily to advertise and spotlight the work of academics. However, he mentioned the positioning is dropping its effectiveness because it leans in the direction of exhibiting individuals algorithmically really useful posts.
Thilina Kaluthotage | Nurphoto | Getty Images
In explicit, Newmark mentioned he likes “just like the spirit of Mastodon and Bluesky,” which he likened to the early days of the web when it took a very long time for web sites to construct devoted audiences.
“The viewers improvement is very sluggish,” Newmark mentioned. “Twitter and all the things else grew slowly and the opposite websites are rising slowly, and but we’re impatient and we need to see community results now.”
Cybersecurity is one other space of focus for Newmark. He pointed to a current $100 million dedication introduced in March to a group of organizations engaged on cyber-related points, like combating the unfold of ransomware and creating methods for tech and safety firms to share menace info.
He mentioned the entire quantity will most likely exceed $100 million, as a result of he is already “damaged by $80 million.”
In June, Newmark’s philanthropy arm additionally pledged to donate $100 million to a number of organizations supporting veterans and navy members, who “generally have to decide on between respectable housing or feeding their households,” Newmark mentioned. He referred to as the therapy of that group “a nationwide safety matter.”
“There’s nothing virtuous in that,” Newmark mentioned about his donations, noting that he does not spend his cash on “yachts or quick vehicles.”
“It’s extra satisfying to provide it away,” Newmark mentioned. “Again, that is not pious or altruistic. It’s simply what I used to be taught in Sunday college.”