Recode Daily: Here’s the story behind VC Steve Jurvetson’s sudden fall from grace

Plus Jack Dorsey’s “other” company is worth more than Twitter, bidders for Rolling Stone and Weinberg Co., and Detroit is building its own internet.

Here’s the story behind VC Steve Jurvetson’s sudden fall from grace. Jurvetson is the highest-profile VC to be ousted since women this year started to speak out about a range of abuse from male investors in Silicon Valley and beyond. He was recently pushed out of DFJ, the premier venture capital firm he co-founded, after an internal investigation found, in part, a pattern of dishonesty with women, including extramarital affairs that, in the eyes of some, crossed into the professional world. [Theodore Schleifer / Recode]

Two years after going public, Square — CEO Jack Dorsey’s “other” company — is worth more than Twitter. The mobile payments startup had a market value of $ 16.5 billion — more than a billion dollars above Twitter’s market cap. Meanwhile, after the recent controversy over “verifying” a white supremacist, Twitter’s new guidelines around violence and physical harm say users can lose verified status for bad behavior both on and off the service. [Rani Molla /Recode]

A handful of bidders are circling Rolling Stone, which was recently put up for sale by founder Jann Wenner, who has run it for 50 years. In the mix are trade publisher Jay Penske, Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg and music exec Irving Azoff. And a surprise bidder has emerged for the rudderless Weinstein Co. Maria Contreras-Sweet, who led the Small Business Administration under President Obama, is proposing a majority-female board of directors there, and attorney Gloria Allred is on board with the plan. [Peter Kafka / Recode]

Meet Amazon’s nearly invisible workforce of “last-mile” delivery workers, self-employed plainclothes contractors who drive their own cars and compete for shifts on the company’s Uber-like app platform called Amazon Flex. Here’s how it works — and what the mass-contractor model is like for the driver when it doesn’t. [Bryan Menegus / Gizmodo]

Charles Manson, one of the most famous killers of the 20th century, is dead at 83. Manson was convicted of leading his ‘family ‘ to commit nine murders in the late 1960s. Since then, the group ‘has occupied a dark, persistent place in American culture — and American commerce. It has inspired, among other things, pop songs, an opera, films, a host of internet fan sites, T-shirts, children’s wear and half the stage name of the rock musician Marilyn Manson.” [Margalit Fox / New York Times]

Top stories from Recode

What kind of apps catch the attention of Silicon Valley investors?

Early Snapchat investor Jeremy Liew lays out his criteria.

Rob Goldstone, the music publicist who connected Russians to the Trump campaign, is talking again.

Remember him?

Tesla’s new super car will cost at least $ 200,000.

But you’ll go super fast and probably look fly as hell.

Why magazine mogul Tina Brown is “angry and upset” at Google and Facebook.

On the latest episode of Recode Decode, Brown says it’s time for the most powerful companies in digital media to stop playing dumb.

This is cool

Dad moves AF.

Recode – All

Full transcript: PandoDaily CEO Sarah Lacy on Recode Media

Her new book is “The Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug.”

On this episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, PandoDaily CEO Sarah Lacy discussed her new book “The Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug.” The longtime journalist also talks about starting her next project — a subscription site called Chairman Mom — without sunsetting her first company, and calls out Silicon Valley for its tolerance of “bad behavior in the name of being a creative genius.”

You can read some of the highlights from the interview here, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Media on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Peter Kafka: This is Recode Media with Peter Kafka, that’s me. I’m part of the Vox Media podcast network. I’m laughing because Sarah Lacy is laughing. She’s laughing at me right now.

Sarah Lacy: I like your radio voice.

Do you like … That’s a radio voice? It’s my voice. Sarah, among other things is the CEO of Pando Daily. She’s an author, most recently of “A Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug.” It’s a good title, Sarah.

Thank you.

You can buy this book immediately, as you hear this podcast.

As of today.

So go buy the book and make Sarah happy. Sarah, I’m going to describe this as part memoir, part manifesto. Language is important, so how do you feel about both those words?

Yeah. No, I think that’s right. It’s hard to wrap both of those into a book. The people who said no to this proposal mostly said no because they were like, “I don’t know how you’re going to do both of those in one book.”

I was going to make a joke about a uterus, but I’m not going to make a joke about a uterus. So, memoir we get, that’s part of your life, right? You’ve done a bunch of things. You’ve written books before, so this not your entire life story, it’s chunks of it. So we get that part. The manifesto is what?

Well, the reason, what drove me to want to do this book, and as you know because we’re in the same industry, the period in which I wrote this book was an incredibly crazy time for me and for my company and my family and my personal life. But I felt like I needed to write the book and needed to write it right then, because I was constantly struck by everything I had been told as a young woman, as an adult about what motherhood would do to me, and the juxtaposition of what motherhood actually did to me.

I felt like I was told for, say, 15 years of adulthood, that I would completely change. I would become unrecognizable from the person I was before. This whole talk of this biological imperative as soon as you hold a baby in your arms, it’s like suddenly every ambition, everything you held dear, everything you’d worked for in your professional life would be wiped away.

So for context, you’re a mother, you have two kids. You’re a CEO, you’re a company founder. You’re a working mom. You are now a single mom. People don’t know your backstory, they will know by the time we’re done with this. Your point is, being a mother and a working mother are good things.


They’re not mutually exclusive.

Which is contrary to what about 40 percent of the population thinks. About 40 percent of Americans, according to Pew, think it’s bad for society if women work.

Right, and so you’re not only saying, “This is only something I wanted to do and a choice, but actually it’s been good for me. It’s been good for my kids and it’s good for my company that I have both of these things in my life.”

Exactly, exactly. The lie that I was told for so long was it would be this untenable, horrible thing. I found after I had kids I was better at everything. I was more confident. My voice as a writer was better. I could write quicker. I was more productive. I became more successful. The exact opposite of what I was told would happen happened.

Sounds easy, we should all do it.

That was important. If only you had a uterus Peter, think of how much more successful you would be.

We could talk about the patriarchy. There’s a lot of patriarchy talk in this book. This is, I don’t know if this is the right way to put it, not bad timing to have a manifesto about women and the patriarchy and gender roles, coming out right now.

Yeah. When I pitched this book I thought we would be sitting here in 2017 with our first female president, so the world changed dramatically as I was writing it.

It is one of the things that has changed. And again, contextually I think the best-known book in the genre is the Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.” You’re addressing professional women. You acknowledge in the book that a lot of the stuff you’re talking about is different if you’re not a successful upper-middle class white woman, right?


But if you compare this to the Sheryl Sandberg book, other books in that genre, what’s the major distinction that you’re making that wasn’t in previous books?

That’s a really great question. I think the biggest distinction is, the Sheryl Sandberg genre is what people call careerism feminism. It’s this idea of, “Let’s all accept we live in a patriarchy. Here’s how you, as largely an educated upper-middle class white woman, can make your way through this system and have a good career on your own.”

Here’s the world as it is, here’s how you can survive and adapt and succeed.

Yeah. I think my book, and I think the moment that our country is in right now, is very much about, we need to overturn the system and the system isn’t okay. One of the biggest disagreements that I have with the “Lean In” canon is the whole idea that the solution is 50-50 marriage.

I think the whole … All of the books advising women if they want balance to seek a 50-50 partner are ultimately supporting a patriarchy because these books are telling women to negotiate with their spouse, that they should be able, and to kind of sell him on this idea that they should be able to have a career and why it will be great for him. I don’t think women should be selling anyone on the life they want to lead.

So your argument is, “Look, it’s not just enough to sort of navigate your own personal life,” and obviously everyone has to navigate their own personal life. But, “We’re not going to fix things unless we structurally fix things.”


That’s a heavy book.

It’s a heavy book, but it’s a heavy time. I think the big change from … “Lean In” came out when I was pregnant with my daughter, and she’s 4. So this has changed rapidly. Back then, I remember thinking that “Lean In” was so radical for a woman in the tech industry to be saying. No one talked about motherhood. No one talked about pumping during meetings. No one talked about this kind of stuff. No one identified as feminist, even four years ago.

It was a radical book at the time. I think it’s amazing that now “Lean In” appears almost old-fashioned, in a moment when it’s all about intersectionality. It’s all about the 70 percent of people who are not in the base of 30 percent of people who are just fine with the hatred in America right now, banding together and doing something about it.

Because this is a memoir, one of the things you talk about is the idea that this was not the way you viewed the world not that long ago, right?

Yeah. My son’s 6.

Describe yourself in your 20s.

Cool dude, Sarah Lacy.

Cool dude? Yeah. It reminds me, that was from “Gone Girl”?

Yeah, the Cool Girl.

The Cool Girl, right. That’s a variant on it. You’re professionally successful, you can hang with the guys. You’re a woman, you’re definitely feminine, but you can play …


I think you say something to the effect of, “Yeah, I wasn’t sympathetic to a lot of feminist arguments.” So what changed your mind? Was it literally just having kids?

It was really motherhood. It was, just even being pregnant was such a transformative experience for me, because as you go along your career in a male-dominated industry, pretending to be a guy and being the recipient of a lot of benevolent sexism that you don’t even necessarily realize is benevolent sexism. You start to really resent a lot of things about being a woman. I think I resented so much about being a woman. I think by the time I got to having children, I felt like being a woman was like a net negative in my life.


Well, because there were still limitations. I could go to baseball games and I could be one of the guys, but then there would come that awkward moment when someone hits on you. There would come like these, I would hear something someone would say about me. As a woman in this industry, Jesus, the stuff that was said about me in public media. When I started at TechCrunch there was a poll on how long I would last because the commenters had driven off every woman …

Published by TechCrunch, right?

No, published by someone else.


No, I think probably linked to by TechCrunch.

Because TechCrunch was a particular …

They weren’t quite that callous. But you know, I was always bumping against these things, where I couldn’t totally be a guy, and where it was frustrating and it was upsetting and it could be offensive and it could be heartbreaking. So I felt like it was a negative. I couldn’t disappear into the world of men as much as I wanted to.

When I became pregnant, I was fortunate that I had really easy pregnancies, but it was not just that it was, I felt like a superhero. I felt like I could suddenly shoot spider webs out of my palms. I felt in awe and amazed at what my body, which I hated and sort of resented for so much of my adult life, was able to do. It totally changed this whole sense of where I found strength and where I found power. That was really the beginning of it.

You’re an accomplished technology journalist. You’ve written a bunch of books. You’ve created your own company. Now you’ve written a book that’s specifically about gender and motherhood, and it says uterus in the title.

I can’t promote it on Facebook.




I can’t do paid promotion because uterus is the title. Jew hater fine, uterus not.

You can’t … You literally cannot promote it on Facebook?


If only you knew Sheryl Sandberg, maybe she could help. But related to that, so Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, No. 2 in the organization chart. Incredibly powerful position, Facebook’s an incredibly powerful company. In a lot of people’s mind she’s the “Lean In” woman. Do you have any trepidation about coming out with a book, you’re still running Pando, you’re still doing technology journalism explicitly defining as woman talking about her kids and motherhood and being identified as that person, as opposed to journalist?

No. Not at all. In fact, when I’m long gone and dead, if I’m only remembered and thought of for this book, nothing would make me happier.

For uterus lady. Unspeakable title lady.

No, I think it is so important. It’s like when I talk to women, before even writing the book I would talk to young women who felt like I did, felt this sense of terror about becoming mothers. I would say to them, “It’s going to be fine. It is going to be fine. You’ve got this. It is not as bad as people made it out to be.” They would be like, “Really? You’re the first person who’s ever told me that.”

If I can go tell every young woman in the world that everything everyone has said about this horrible weak debilitating curse of motherhood is a lie, that would be such a better life’s work than anything I’ve done in my career till now.

I’m not well prepared enough for this interview, because I would have brought the name of the book, but there was in the Atlantic essays, a book about having it all and basically saying, “You can’t do it.”

Yeah, Anne-Marie Slaughter.



That it is a well-meaning but wrong myth, to say that you can do all these things. You literally, there’s not enough hours in a day. Even if, by the way, you have a Sheryl Sandberg-size support staff at work and at home. You’re one person, you can’t do all of these things. But then you say, “No, it’s not true.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s true. I think part of it is, part of what’s insidious about the patriarchy is this sense of guilt and perfection that’s put in women’s minds. This sense that you can’t be a perfect mother unless you’re 100 percent on-call to your children, and you can’t be a perfect employee unless you’re 100 percent on-call to your employers.

If that is your definition of having it all, then I guess you’re in Anne-Marie Slaughter’s camp. That is not my definition of having it all. I think most men are not 100 percent on-call to their employers and I think that it’s healthy for your kids not to be 100 percent on-call to them. I also feel like once you’re, when you first have a baby it seems very untenable because you don’t understand how quickly things are going to change. But by the time your kids are in school …

I don’t have anything like a Sheryl Sandberg staff. I don’t have a husband. I have no family that lives near me. I don’t even have a nanny or any childcare right now. And I have two children and work about 11 hours a day. I wrote a book on like spare daddy weekends. I actually took on other stuff as my nanny left.

You know, it’s doable. They’re in school. They’re in school from eight to five. I don’t just feel like this, there’s actually data that I cite in the book. Once your kids are in school, stay-at-home moms only spend something like 15 percent more quality time with their kids than working moms. The rest of the day is housework, laundry, organizing lives, being the COO of a household. I have a super messy house. So if having it all is having …

I remember when I first had Eli, I was talking to Kara Swisher and she was like, “Yeah, you’re just going to follow around your nanny and refold things because they won’t do it right.” I’m like, “Wow, you and I are really different human beings.” If you only saw my house. My house is a disaster, and I’m fine with my house being a disaster.

I’m trying to picture Kara folding laundry.

She says she follows around her nanny when she’s gone.


Then she redoes it, because she doesn’t like how she did it. That isn’t my life.

I’m going to ask her about that. I’m not going to do it right now but I am going to take a break so we can all gather ourselves and also hear from our fine sponsors. We’ll be right back.


We’re back here with Sarah Lacy, friend of Jason Hirschhorn, one of our favorite guests. Jason was the first guy to hit the hour mark, I don’t think we’re going to do that today because you’re time-pressed because you’re doing a bunch of stuff because you’ve got a new book to promote. Book is called …

“A Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug: The Working Woman’s Guide to Overthrowing the Patriarchy.”

You’re sure Facebook didn’t ding it because it says patriarchy? Did they tell you?


Did someone say uterus is a problem?

No. The ad got returned because of uterus. If only the Russians had been trying to promote uteruses, Hillary would be in office.

This is book two, book three?


Book three. Do you make money doing books?

I make money. My publishers have not made money.

Yeah, do you ever think about, you’re in a business about disrupting stuff, new models. Do you ever think, “Maybe I’ll self publish?” Or, “There’s another way to do this,” or are you like, the model where they give you an advance and you write a book and then you do it again.

Yeah. It’s not just that, I think one of the reasons that writing books has been really good for me, it’s one of those last things that if you go through a publisher not everyone can do. I think that there’s something about that gatekeeper in the media world that gives you a lot of credibility.

With my first book I was lucky enough to get a really great bonus that will never unfortunately earn back. But then it was not just that, it was after that, I was the person who had written this book and I couldn’t believe how much more opportunity I got, how every job offer I got seemed to have another zero on it. I was really stunned at the difference.

Then my second book actually has earned back but I got a lousy, lousy, lousy advance on it. With that one I made a ton of money off speaking gigs after it.

That seems to be the model, the realistic model for making money off books, because generally the advances, even if they’re good advance, it’s paid in chunks and you’ve got pay your own bills. Is that if you can do something and if you’re slightly — cynical’s the wrong word — practical about it, do something that has the ability to do paid speaking afterwards, that’s where you can really make your money.

Yeah. My second book was brutal. It was about entrepreneurship and emerging markets. I spent 40 weeks traveling through the emerging world. That book cost me money to do. I was relieved that I made money from speaking gigs on the other side.

So this one you did the research but the research was in your own house.

Yeah, exactly. I’d lived it.


No, I went to Iceland for this book. I relied on some travel and reporting that I had done in China. There’s some other places I had to go and things I had to do, but it was nowhere near as extreme as that second book.

But it is a memoir, there’s crazy stories in it. I want to ask you about a few of them.

I’ve had a crazy six years.

Did you write this after you were divorced?


So you were divorced, you were in a new relationship. You said, “Now I’m going to write about this.” You talk about that relationship, you talk about divorcing your first husband …

My only husband.

… and the fact that you’re now in a relationship with Paul Carr, who is your co-founder.

It’s the first time I’ve talked about this publicly.

Right, so it’s in the book.

I know.

I was going to ask that. Had you talked about that publicly before?

No. No, we don’t hide it and he’ll go to things like the lobby with me and industry events. So people know, it’s not a secret. But you know, after the life that we’ve both had, we don’t really feel a need to invite people into our lives.

So if you’re not in the Sarah Lacy universe, just to explain this, Paul Carr is your co-founder. What’s the best way to describe him?

We acquired his company. So he kind of became my co-founder.

You guys both launched public …


You had both worked at TechCrunch together.

Yeah, and we had actually, even before then we had written both of our first books at the same times. So we talked on the phone every day and were informal writing partners and best friends during that process. Then we worked at TechCrunch together, we both left TechCrunch at the same time. He started Not Safe For Work Corp and I started Pando, and then Pando bought Not Safe For Work Corp.

Right, and then at some point you guys started dating.

We started dating.

Now, is he watching the kids back in San Francisco?

No, he’s here. The kids are with their dad.

Okay. In addition to just being a crazy story, I think one of the parts about the story that’s particularly interesting is, you were in the middle, you were the subject of this huge Uber story.


For a long time, you’re going at Uber, and then at one point they … You can tell the story about Uber and the dinner and Ben Smith and BuzzFeed, then we’ll get to the Paul Carr part.

Yeah. We had been really critical about this company. I’d particularly been critical about their treatment of women and what I viewed as a fundamentally misogynistic culture at this company. It was things like, when we were …

One of my reporters — actually Carmel, who then worked for you guys — she was writing about some of the stuff with background checks. Executives were saying things to her like, “Well, sure, maybe that woman got sexually assaulted, but she was dressed provocatively and she was drunk.” The total lack of empathy and morality, to talk about one of your customers that way, who’d been assaulted using your service, at the same you were trying to get laws changed and using the defense that you’re helping women get home safely, was too much for me to handle. That was one of many things I found deeply misogynistic.

You were an early critic of Uber when for a long time it was almost entirely positive coverage about them.

Yes, we were.

Unless you were in the taxi business, everyone was sympathetic to what they were doing. Again, unless you were really deep into it, you really didn’t understand the company culture that much anyway, just that they were a car service.

Yeah. Yeah, it was pretty brutal. Look, as you know, we’re a small publication. It’s not like what we wrote about Uber was going to meaningfully affect their downloads, but where we were having an impact was that we’re a deeply read publication by the people who are very close to the company and close to the founders. I think I’ve heard from many anecdotal cases that we were hurting their ability to hire certain people. We were asking a lot of hard questions about the culture of this company.

So at a minimum you were an irritant, then you were on their radar. You know this because there’s this dinner. Uber has a press dinner, they invite a bunch of journalists.

Yeah, and it was like one of their many attempts to reboot Travis Kalanick’s image and try to make him seem like a nice guy. While he’s doing that on one end of the table, at the other end of the table is his alpha bro protected A-list guy, Emil Michael.

This is the No. 2 guy at the company, basically.

Yeah. Emil Michael was at the other end of the table, detailing to Ben Smith from BuzzFeed this really disturbing plan, particularly, as he phrased it — and this is second hand from Ben — to try to shut me up by going after my family. There are so many accounts later on about what was said or not said at this dinner, but he’s tried to say it was like a drunken rant, he was blowing off steam, but he detailed a pretty precise plan.

There’s no debate that he was talking about you. The only debate is precisely what he said and whether or not he was kidding about a plan to shut you up.

And what they had already been doing. But he did detail like a headcount, the type of people he wanted, a budget. It was pretty precise.

By the way, contextually, now that we’ve seen the reporting about Harvey Weinstein and what he’s done, who he was paying to follow journalists, to follow the women who were accusing him of harassment.

Certainly Susan Fowler has talked about the company doing these things to her.

Right, so it’s not unheard of that this would happen.

We saw a court case where the judge ordered the emails be decrypted, that showed they were doing this to a plaintiff and a plaintiff’s lawyer that was coming against them. They had hired a firm Ergo which had ex-CIA people. It was clear they had hired this firm before. Then worst of all was the report that Emil Michael, same guy, had his lieutenant obtain medical records from a woman in India raped using their service in order to discredit her.

That’s the story that finally pushed him out of the company.

Yeah. For years people wanted, the company wanted to paint a picture that I was hysterical and blowing this out of proportion, when we’ve now seen at least three examples of them doing this.

So what do you think they thought they were going to uncover or tell people about?

From what I can understand, I don’t think they had started doing any oppo research in my life because I was …

They just thought there was a there there.

I was already getting divorced. If they had done any they would have known, because the idea was trying to break up my marriage and me being a protective mother I would back off because of that. They wanted to destroy my home life.

So, and this is getting around to the book, is there anything that’s in the book that you’re writing about now publicly that you think would have come out through their oppo campaign?



No, I mean the things that he detailed to Ben weren’t true. So as far as I know they were just going to make a bunch of shit up.


But I think had they … maybe that would have changed if they had followed me. But look, I have lived much of my professional life being written about and dissected on sites like Valleywag, so I don’t think there was really much for them to uncover.

You took it super seriously, right? You had guards at your house.

Well, once it became a reality … First of all, oppo research isn’t Googling someone, they’re following you, they’re following your kids. It’s a pretty intense thing. Once the story became really big, I’m sure anyone who’s been the subject of this kind of thing, once you’re on the cover of that many newspapers, you’re on television, you’re being painted as the enemy of this company and this company has millions of drivers that work for them that are angry that may or may not have passed background checks. It’s not that hard to understand why this rapidly evolved to something that could have been really dangerous for my family.

So you had guards at your house for some period.

And going with us everywhere.

Then you’ve got this scene that you talk about, where your husband’s there, still married. Paul Carr is there. You’re all sitting in your living room.

We were separated.

You were separated, but you’re all in the living room together. You’re not dating Paul yet, but you are going to date Paul and sort of headed that way, but you guys haven’t discussed that.

We’d had this weird conversation.

Yeah, and meanwhile there’s a guard out front getting your Indian food.

Yeah, because I wasn’t allowed to answer the door.

So that’s a scene.

It’s totally weird. Paul and I had had this conversation where in the process of Jeff and I getting divorced I was like, “I am never going to date again.” Because my life was crazy and my kids were completely living with me. I had the insanity of this company. I had a company that was doing oppo research, part of which is people going undercover to find things out about you. I was still being written about and trashed on Gawker all the time.

So it was like, there’s no way I can just meet someone. I can’t date anyone in the tech industry. My life is so messed up. I had so many trust issues. I was like, “I’m never going to date anyone.” I was explaining this one night to Paul. It was a long, long, long list of all this stuff. He just sat there sort of quietly, and the end of what I was saying he said, “You realize everything you’ve described that you would need in a relationship is our relationship, except we don’t have sex.” And then we didn’t talk for the rest of the night. It was just awkward. It was out there for months, until this weird night in my living room.

Can we credit Emil Michael and Travis and Ben Smith with getting you together with Paul Carr?

Yeah, weirdly enough.

Okay, congratulations gentlemen, you made a love connection.

I don’t think that was Emil Michael’s intention.

What kind of thought did you put or not put into whether or not you were going to tell that story in the book?

Again, I don’t think …

Or any of the part about your divorce and relationship?

I don’t really get into the divorce. That’s really the only thing that I don’t get into in the book, because I haven’t decided what I’m going to tell my children about the divorce.

You talk a bit about it, right? You talk about wanting to commit violence to him, hypothetically.

Yeah. No, there is a lot of backstory there that it … Look, everyone who gets divorced, there’s your public story and there’s the shit that really went down. I haven’t decided what my kids should know or not know about it. I didn’t want them to read about it.

You’ve got a line in there about telling your husband that you were pregnant again, and that he’s surprised that you’re pregnant and that it was not a surprise on your part. You kind of leave it out there and don’t go into it, like, “Uh, that’s a story.”

I think part of it was we were living in two different cities and we had a newborn, so I just feel like there have not been that many times we’d actually been together in order to get pregnant. It took a long time for me to get pregnant with Eli. Evie was like this miracle baby in every way. She is a miracle young human being who really kept our family together, but she also was … it was this like, “How are you pregnant already?” I was nursing and we were living in different cities.

I read it as, “I decided I was going to get pregnant but I didn’t tell my partner.”



Well, I was definitely the one driving that train. I was for sure the one who was like, “No, Eli is going to have a sister.” He would have been, “Fine.” One of the things that did come between us is I wanted more kids and he didn’t.

So back to that idea, writing about it did you go to your ex-husband? Did you go to Paul and say, “Just so you know, this is what I want to do,” or, “What do you think about me doing this?”

As you know, Paul’s written several memoirs himself. In his second book, which is about him getting sober, which I was a big part of … When we were friends I said — back then I was much more private — and I said, “I don’t want to be in your book if we’re friends,” because that was kind of what he did at the time, was write about himself. He put me in his book anyway, over my objection, so I didn’t really feel like he got a vote.

You had that chip.

Yeah. I think he was fine with it. It was a harder thing for my husband and I really give him a lot of credit for, he didn’t ask me to change anything in the book. He really gave me the freedom to do it, but it’s painful. We were together for 15 years, it was a painful divorce. We’re in a really, really great place now, which is one reason I didn’t want to hash out a lot of what happened, because my kids will never remember us being together and will never remember that period when we were not on good terms. We’ve been on amazing terms since and I almost feel like what happened doesn’t really matter.

You’ve got this great line here, “My personal life on paper is a cautionary tale of a million things you shouldn’t do, but in practice it’s one of the most balanced supportive co-parenting arrangements of anyone I know.” That’s the good part of it.

Yeah. No, people, I’m like the divorce whisperer. I was the only divorced mom at preschool, and I remember vividly coming back from the holidays one year and passing a mom in the stairwell. I was like, “How was your Christmas?” She looked like she had been through the ringer for three weeks. She was like, “We’re doing construction on this house, and I had in-laws in town, and the kids are driving me nuts.” She was like, “What about you?” I was like, “I just got back from a yoga retreat in Mexico.”

There is a little social contagion, right? Once, within a social group, one in the group gets divorced, like, “Oh, you can do that. That’s how that works.”

Yeah, there’s life on the other side. No, I mean right now, right now if I were still married and I were here promoting this book I would have so much guilt. My kids would feel like something had been taken from them for me to be gone. They’re just spending time with their dad now and they spend time with their dad without me all the time.

Your time is precious, so I don’t want to take your time more, but I do have so more questions for you. We’re going to hear one more quick word from a sponsor. We’ll be right back.


Back here with Sarah Lacy. You’re still texting?

I’m here.

She’s still here.

I’m multitasking.

She can multitask.

I’m a working mom.

I’ll read, you’ll talk. Want to talk about the business that you run, Pando. You started a second business, you sort of slipped that in as an aside.

I have. I went there, there’s nothing there yet.

Yeah, it’s going to launch soon.

Okay, do you want to talk about the new business or the existing business?

We could talk about either.

Let’s do both.


Let’s start with the one that doesn’t exist yet, or has not launched yet, I’ve got a sense of what it’s about but you tell me.

It’s a community for working professional moms. The idea, it’s going to be a subscription community.

What’s a subscription community?

You pay to be part of it, so it’s like $ 5 a month. Which is part of what’s important about it, because you want it to be this place where there’s not going to be trolls, there’s not going to be mommy wars. There’s going to be moderation, but also having a subscription community helps keep that under control.

Message boards, listserv.

It’s going to a couple different things, but it’s mostly going to be curated question and answer with some content. The idea is working moms helping each other solve the really hardest problems of work and life that you usually can’t discuss anywhere else.

It’s interesting, right, the professional mom, yuppie mom, whatever adjective you want to use, market huge, right, online should be huge and we’re a little bit past this now but I remember when our kids were younger my wife was spending time on the Park Slope Parents listserv, which is a Yahoo email group. It’s super clunky, still a really effective way to get advice and to trade strollers, or whatever it is, but really archaic in terms of tech.

There’s actually been a lot of stuff built for moms, but it’s really mostly dominated by stay-at-home moms. There’s not a lot that expressly built for professional moms who are, to me, some of the most isolated people. Again, they’re judged by society as not being good mothers. If a woman out-earns her spouse by even a dollar, the odds of his infidelity go way up. So they’re frequently isolated within marriages. Even if they work in a company where there’s other working moms, because of maternal bias you have to project you’ve got everything together, so they feel very isolated at work. And frequently isolated in school communities too, like if you’re the only working mom.

So there’s a lot of judgment and isolation that these women face all the time, even though 40 percent of American households have female breadwinners. They’re doing a lot of heavy lifting in this economy. There’s places … There’s not a lot of places they can discuss things they go through. Whether it’s an issue with a spouse, whether it’s, “I have a five year old who I think is transgender, what’s the best way for me to support him?”

Your argument is that there’s a distinction between a working mom addressing that question and a stay-at-home mom addressing that question. They get to the same answer?


But there’s a different set of factors going in there. That’s going to launch when?

We’re building it now. It’s about ready. We were hoping to have it in beta by the time the book came out, but you know how startups go.

“We are.” Who’s we?

It’s me and Paul and we have a team. We have a couple of developers who are right now on contract, all-female developer team, which has been amazing to work with. We have this amazing New York journalist, Lily Herman, who’s been doing our Mama Bear newsletter, and a couple other folks like that. We’re hiring a few other people right now.

Company No. 2, still running company No. 1. Running a company’s hard. You reference a bunch of different times, and how old is Pando?

I started it on maternity leave and Eli’s 6, so five-and-a-half, six, yeah.

So six-year-old company, a lot of work, and I think again in the book you’re more candid maybe than you have been publicly about how difficult it’s been, how close to failing the company was several time. Now you say it’s profitable?


Generally don’t start second company while you’re running the first? Or what made you decide, “All right, we’re at the place where this thing … we’re going to do a second thing.”

It was a really hard decision. I really wrestled with this for about a year. It took me a long time to get to the point of feeling like I really could do it. I was running Pando and I had this side project of the book, and then I had a side project of the podcast that went into my reporting of the book, and then I had a side project where I was doing a dinner every month at my house for female entrepreneurs and VCs. Then that turned into a side project of a Facebook Group.

Everything I was doing around working mothers was growing so fast, and growing faster than Pando ever did frankly, and was making me much happier and was providing a lot of value in women’s lives. It just kept exploding and running away with me. I got to the place where I was like, “That needs to be where I’m putting my time.”

So then what happens to Pando? Because Pando is, and you talk about this in the book, this is the thing when a founder, someone starts … Very often when someone starts a media company, that media company is them. They hire other people, other people do work and they work hard, but if that person is not running it, if a person whose name is attached to it is not creating content, it kind of doesn’t work. We’ve seen a bunch of examples of that. So if you’re doing company No. 2, what happens to company No. 1?

For now, Pando is still doing its thing. We’re not doing any more events, so that takes a big chunk of the workload out of Pando. We’re still doing what we’re doing. Paul helps do a lot of the admin stuff around Pando and making sure the bills get paid, making sure that stuff, that as the CEO I was much more on top of before. I mostly write for Pando and spend the rest of my time on Chairman Mom. But we’ll see when Chairman Mom launches what it becomes. We’re taking it day by day.

So, imagining in six month seeing an email or a post saying, “We’re sunsetting Pando. We’re pivoting Pando into something,” or, “Sold Pando.”

I don’t know, we’ll see. I don’t know, right now I’m in the middle of reporting a major investigative story that I think is really important, that I’m spending a lot of my time on, that’s hopefully going to be on Pando in the next couple weeks. It’s like I’ve been a journalist my whole career and that part of my life is difficult to let go of. In some ways the two companies are complementary.

Certainly one of Pando’s biggest stories over the last couple years has been bro culture, and a lot of issues around sexual harassment and discrimination. So a lot of things we’ve been writing about are of huge interest to the potential Chairman Mom audience, but they’re different. Chairman Mom is not going to be a content site. I’m going to want to write something somewhere.

Pando also is 85 percent male audience. Chairman Mom will have a very female-heavy audience. So in some ways if you want to impact change, it’s nice to have both of those outlets. A community where moms can help each other and an aggressive investigative journalism site, where you can tell people and expose things that are happening. I want to keep doing both as long as I can.

You wrote about startups, founders, investors, for years, then you entered that world as a participant. What did you learn from starting a company, from running a company that you didn’t get in all your reporting about that world?

I think the emotional impact of it was what surprised me the most. I think I knew it was hard. I think I knew a lot of the mechanics of raising money. I think I knew it’d be easier to raise money before something existed. A lot of things like that that might be surprises to people. I think the emotion of when it’s your company and how things impact you and how protective you feel of it and how personal everything feels. I think probably that was heightened because I was also pregnant and nursing for the first three years of the company, so I had a lot of mom hormones.

But you really feel this deep sense of responsibility, not only to your employees and not only to your investors but to your readers. My life would be easier, frankly, if I could just sunset Pando and move on, but I feel like everyone who’s come through and worked for that publication — and the community that has supported us when frankly most of the tech world didn’t — I feel like those people have invested as much of their blood, sweat and tears in this brand and what it stands for as I have. It is really a deep, weird, emotional connection.

There’s the thing you used to hear/read about a bunch, I think less so, I think there’s probably less startup coverage in some ways than there was. But a journalist would write something about a startup that was critical or they’d point out that it didn’t work or something, and then we’d get feedback saying, “Why are you being a hater?” or, “Why aren’t you being supportive of startups?” or, “Why are you anti startup?” or, “Why are you pro big media?” any of that.

As someone who would frequently write that stuff, be the person writing the critical stuff, I thought that’s a really narrow-minded way to respond. But I do have some sympathy/empathy for people who say, “Look, building a company is different than writing about a company.” Sounds like you’re in that camp, even more so now.

Yeah. I do think there was an additional level of empathy that I got. Although I was early enough with TechCrunch and helped building TechCrunch that I had experienced some of that. But at the same time I also think I became way more adversarial as a journalist once I was running Pando. So from the outside I don’t think people thought I got more sympathetic.

Yeah. What did you learn about media that — again, you were at TechCrunch while it was growing up — running a media company that has surprised you?

The biggest surprise is that we wound up being a subscription site, because when we started and Paul started Not Safe For Work, he went that route and I didn’t. We had a lot of disagreements about it

He had a subscription service.

Yeah. I think ultimately I’m really glad things played out the way they did because I think if Pando had started at subscription we wouldn’t have developed the level and value of the brand that we did. I think we made that shift at the right time.

What does a Pando subscription cost?

$ 10 a month.

When did you move to that?

After we were threatened by Uber, because they started threatening our advertisers and we had to.

That has enabled you to become profitable now?

Yeah. Yeah, and we actually had a pretty good ad business, because we had such a small but juicy group of people. We had, I don’t know, maybe I think when we shifted we had about eight big six-figure advertisers, we had several more teed up. We were actually building a pretty good scalable ad business for a small publication, but it started to, as we got adversarial towards the industry, we started to feel that thing where who’s your customer and who’s your product? If you’re an ad-supported company then your readers are your product and your customers are your advertisers. The direction that we thought the value was going, that was not going to be tenable.

A lot of folks have reached that conclusion. Like, “Oh, subscription business looks good,” so there’s a renewed interest in selling stuff directly both for media startups and media companies.

There’s this purity of it. Yeah, which is really nice.

Do you feel like your readers are going to be at some point saying, “Well look, you’re asking me to pay for Pando and The Information, and, I don’t know, Wall Street Journal. At some point I’m going to stop subscribing to things. By the way, I’m already paying for Netflix and Hulu and whatever else. I’m going to get the rest of it from free media.”

I don’t know, we’ll see. We’re lucky in that we’re in a vertical where people expense it, so I don’t think really individuals are paying for us that much. In fact, in January we had this big legal bill we had to pay, and we’ve had a bunch of frivolous lawsuit threats we’ve had to fight off. This was another one of them, and they’re annoying and they cost money, but it’s part of running the kind of company that we do.

You had a number that you said, $ 400 million in lawsuits over six years.

Threats and lawsuits, yeah.

That’s what damages people, actually, lawsuits or threats of lawsuits?

Threats and lawsuits. No, they’re always baseless, you just have to spend tens of thousands of dollars showing that you’re going to fight it and then they don’t actually file it.

Peter Thiel is one of your backers.


Okay, so obviously you know where I’m going with this. Peter Thiel bankrupted Gawker, because he got his judgments. But even had he not gotten the judgment, he would have, it turns out, because he was bankrolling the Hulk Hogan thing, could have tied up Gawker for years. Spending millions of dollars — which is literally nothing for him since he’s a billionaire — and could have been just as debilitating for Gawker. As a publisher and as a journalist, what’s your discussion with Peter Thiel about that, his role in that?

We have not spoken.

Literally, since?

Since, well, that happened about the same time as him supporting Donald Trump, and we have not spoken.

He was an investor, right? He’s an investor?


Did you consider returning his money?

We didn’t have the money to return his money, for one thing. But no, we didn’t consider it. We talked about this a lot because we had people asking us about it. He wasn’t directly an investor, Founders Fund was an investor. Actually, I initially went to him because I knew him and we had been friends. He said, “I would love to invest but I have to give right of first refusal to Founders Fund,” and they actually took it from Peter. It was actually Brian Singerman who did the deal, so it wasn’t quite as neat and clean as “Peter Thiel wrote us a check.” He would have, had Founders Fund not taken it.

Because you reference him in here as someone who gave you good advice at one point.

He did. He was one of my favorite people in Silicon Valley for a really long time. That’s been a really painful thing.

So you stopped speaking last summer I guess, last spring, or a year ago?

Actually, I don’t remember the last time that we talked.

Did you have a break up? Did you say, “I am no longer speaking to you because of Gawker, because of Trump?”

No. I don’t know how well you know Peter but it’s like he’s not …

Not at all.

He’s not really someone who has those emotional friendly conversations.

That’s what I hear.

I know even from what I’ve heard between conversations that have happened between he and Reid Hoffman, who he’s super close to. I remember even when I interviewed Max Levchin, who he founded PayPal with. I asked Max, “What is the conversation you’ve had with Peter about Trump?” He’s like, “We haven’t talked about it.” He’s not someone who has a lot of real emotive personal conversations, even with people he’s close to.

When you launched Pando you went and got a bunch of money from a bunch of different VCs. You said, “Obviously we’re going to have conflicts of interest with all of them, and that’s the point. We’ll have so many conflicts of interest that no one can blame us and no one can accuse us of having conflicts of interest.”

As you’re starting this company, you’re not going to be writing about tech companies, but there is a renewed or new scrutiny about where your money is coming from and where does that money actually come from. When you take money from DST, what is … is that from Putin? So how are you thinking about funding this project? Do you want investors?

We did. We raised a seed round, and we have about 13 investors and only two white men, so we raised a very different seed round than we did for Pando.

And you did that intentionally?


Said, “We would like women, we would like people who are not white men.”

Women, people of color, and then people who … it was less we don’t want white men in this company, it was more we wanted people who really were going to be aligned with this mission and felt like this mission was really important. Because there were a lot of people who thought the mission of Pando was important and said it was, and I think there’s probably half of my investors I don’t speak to now.

It’s a rough world out there in the media tech sectors.

Yeah. It’s been a hard six years. I think it’s going to continue to be that way for a lot of people. We’re seeing every day really ugly stories come out about what VCs have been doing to women, about what they’ve turned a blind eye to. Look, if you’re in my house one day, holding my children and saying you want to invest in my company because you think my fierce adversarial truth-telling is so important, and then you’re totally cool with your portfolio company threatening those same children the next day, I don’t know what you are but you’re certainly not a friend to me and you’re certainly not a human being either.

Do you think — we’re recording this early November, mid November. We’ve had a couple months now of stories about sexual harassment, abuse, “sexual misconduct” is a new weird euphemism for masturbating in front of women at a club. I don’t get that.

They’re generally about media personalities and people in media companies, generally in the Acela corridor and then there’s some VC, Silicon Valley stuff, and now we’re moving into politics. But it’s really been a lot of tech and media stuff. Do you think there’s something particular about those industries that those incidents have happened there, or particular about those industries where we’re hearing reports about it? Or do you think we’re going to hear about this in every industry?

I think one thing that’s very similar about Hollywood and Silicon Valley is you have small numbers of gatekeepers who control a lot of what gets produced and what doesn’t get produced.

So it’s not just they have money and there’s that power and balance. They can actually turn stuff on or off.

Right, and it’s also these small partnerships. A firm like Benchmark has like five or six partners that just sit around and make these decisions. So it’s like they don’t have a big HR team. There are these big multi-layered organizations. They also haven’t had a lot of scrutiny and a lot of expectation that they have to have that. I think it’s similar when it comes to movie producers. It’s frequently one individual.

I think both with Hollywood and Silicon Valley too, there’s been this asshole excuse and this like, “Oh, he’s a creative genius, so it’s fine that he’s an asshole.” I think there’s been a lot of forgiveness of bad behavior in the name of being a creative genius, that you probably can’t have in a lot of sectors.

I think one reason we’ve seen more of it out of Hollywood than out of the Valley right now is 3 percent of venture-backed companies have female CEOs. There just aren’t that many women who are even getting funding in the first place, whereas almost every movie is going to have an actress. There’s more women who are part of the Hollywood economy because of what that product is, than there are women part of the startup economy. But I think there’s something about that celebration of rogue disruptive asshole creative male ego that …

So you do think it …

You have children. If you don’t put rules on your children, what happens?

Like this morning. Save that for The Different Parent podcast.

I’m jealous of your chaos this morning, I hate when I’m away from my kids.

You can pick my kids up from school and deal with them.

All right, we could go on for a long time. I want to bring it back for one last question here. You were talking about diversity in the Valley and how there isn’t any. Lots of head scratching and lots of earnest, “We need to fix this.” You say, “No, it’s easy to do this.” Everyone says it’s hard, you say it’s easy. You hire diverse teams early on, hire and promote women and people of color from the beginning.

The talent is there, the desire on the part of the industry’s gatekeepers simply isn’t. So you’re saying when you hear various VCs, when you hear CEOs saying, “Yeah, I’d like to fix it but …” Jeff Bezos reportedly said something to the effect of, “We’d like to hire more women in positions of power, but we’ve got all these dudes here.” You’re saying this is easy to solve, it’s not brain surgery.

I think compared to the other things the tech industry does, yeah. You’re telling me it is harder to hire a woman of color than it is to launch rockets into space, to beam internet down from planes and satellites, to build virtual worlds, to create companies where the audience is larger than any world nation? It’s ridiculous.

When Silicon Valley leaders tell you something is too hard, whether that’s figuring out if something’s real news or fake news or whether it’s finding more women to hire, what they’re telling you is they don’t prioritize it. Because this is an industry that by its definition looks for hard problems to solve, looks to find new ways to do things.

So you think they are genuinely not interested in solving it.

I think it’s not a priority.

Right, so whether or not it’s because they’re pro patriarchy or they just don’t care, you just think they don’t care enough to fix it.


When Mark Zuckerberg announces in his earnings call last month that he’s really taking the Russia stuff seriously, do you take that at face value?

That’s hard to know. I’ve had a lot of discussions, as I’m sure you guys have, with people inside Facebook right now. That is a company in the middle of an existential crisis that I have never seen at that company. Unlike someone like Uber, which has always been really happy to be hated and has always had an us-versus-them mentality, even when most people thought it was amazing. Facebook has never been that company.

They seem genuinely confused that people are questioning them.

I know a lot of people inside that company are genuinely horrified at what they may have done and unleashed.

What they built.

And what do they need to do as a company and how they get out of this. So I hope they’re taking it seriously.

Want to come back and have a second podcast discussion about that?


All right, deal. You’ve got to promote a book, I will let you go. Thank you for your time. I know it’s precious.

Thank you for having me.

Recode – All

Full transcript: Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Recode Decode

On perhaps becoming the first black and first woman governor: “When no one has done what you want to do, it’s hard for people to see that it can be done.”

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Stacey Abrams, a Democrat running for governor of Georgia, talks about the early stages of her campaign and what is means to run as the first woman to be a state governor. She explains how she is using technology and how she contends with some voters’ reductive tendency only to think of her as “the black candidate.”

You can read some of the highlights here, or listen to the entire interview in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as someone who would be a Georgia peach, if only I were from Georgia and felt like being nice. But in my spare time I talk tech and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Or just visit for more.

Today I’m in New York City with my friend Hilary Rosen. She’s a political strategist for SKDKnickerbocker and a political commentator for CNN. Hey, Hilary.

Hilary Rosen: Hey, Kara.

KS: How you doing?

HR: I am awesome.

KS: Good. Throughout November, Hilary and I are doing a bunch of interviews together where she is my guest host, talking to some really interesting people from the political world for bonus episodes of Recode Decode. Apparently you all can’t get enough and so we’re going to give you more.

Today’s guest is Stacey Abrams, a candidate for governor of Georgia. She formerly served in Georgia’s general assembly and was its House minority leader. Stacy, welcome to Recode Decode.

Stacey Abrams: Thank you for having me.

KS: Thanks for coming in. It’s great, you’re in New York, just around, running around, meeting people.

Running around.

KS: Let’s get started about your background. One of the things we do on Recode Decode — even if it’s Bill Gates — we want to know how you got to where you got. Give me your quick background in terms of how you moved up the political … where you grew up and things like that.

Sure. I was born in Wisconsin. I only remember being cold. We moved back to Mississippi, which is where my parents are from, when I was 3. So I actually grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi. My mom was a college librarian, my dad was a shipyard worker, but we still struggled like a lot of families. We were working class, working poor. My mom didn’t like that so she called us genteel poor. We had no money but we watched PBS and we read books.

KS: All right.

Finished high school in Georgia. My parents decided to become ministers at the age of 40, so I was a junior. We moved to Georgia. I graduated from high school there, went to Spelman College, went to UT Austin for graduate school, went to Yale for law school. Had to get a real job, came back to Atlanta, became a tax attorney, and then began my trajectory of downward economic mobility.

KS: Good work.

So I went from being a tax attorney to being a city attorney for Atlanta.

KS: The city attorney for Atlanta.

Exactly, so I was a deputy. I managed a team of about 20 lawyers by the end of my tenure.

KS: That’s an appointed position, right?

It is. I was appointed by the city attorney and the mayor. Then went from that job, ran for the state House in 2006, got elected. Served in the House for four years and then decided I should be the minority leader so I ran for that in 2010. I was elected by my colleagues and did that until 2017, about a few months ago when I stepped down to run for governor.

KS: All right, so what got you into politics? I should ask, what got you into being a tax attorney, but you’ve moved on from that. What gave you the impetus to move into politics itself?

I think that poverty is immoral and economically inefficient. I watched my parents try their best to mitigate it. In Mississippi they would take us to volunteer a lot. I once asked, “Shouldn’t there be someone who could do this besides six kids and my two parents?” Eight people seemed like a lot of … just not enough investment in trying to solve this problem. My parents said, “That’s called government.” The government is supposed to put together the systems to help address these issues, and it wasn’t working.

I became fascinated by how you could make that system work, and then I became fascinated by the conversation of where the private sector fit in and the nonprofit sector. For me, politics is part of a triumvirate of learnings that I’ve tried to have. I’ve started small businesses, I’ve run nonprofit organizations. And for me, politics is one of those pieces that you have to understand. Government has to be done better if we want to serve people.

KS: When you got into doing this, did you think you were a natural politician? Was it …

God, no. I am deeply introverted. My closest friends and my family know that this is the least likely job for me to have based on my basic personality. But they also know I’m very determined. I like systems, I like efficiency, and I found that if I couldn’t make politicians do what I wanted I needed to become one myself.

KS: Become one yourself. And was there a moment where you were like, “I’m going to do this?” Like, “That guy is driving me crazy.”

HR: There are so many I would assume … Georgia, everywhere.

Well you know, the first time I ran for office and actively thought about it was in college, because there was an inequity …

KS: At Spelman.

At Spelman College, there was an inequity in the distribution of two-ply and one-ply toilet paper, which to me was emblematic of a larger set of social dignity issues.

KS: Oh, no, that’s a big issue.

Absolutely. So I ran for student government and eventually became the student government president. But during that time I also ended up working for Maynard Jackson, who was the mayor of Atlanta, working in the office of youth services. There I really understood on a very granular level how important it was to have representation both in the legislative branch and the executive branch that cared about those issues.

I thought that I wanted to be mayor of Atlanta, and so my trajectory was really towards, how do I become mayor? But the more I thought about that work, the more I realized the issues that matter to me most really had to have a statewide imprimatur. You needed a governor who thought about these issues.

So probably about a little more than a decade ago I started thinking very specifically about how could I learn the skills necessary to help run the state of Georgia. Because I think if we can tackle the issue of poverty, the issue of lack of human dignity, the concerns of those who are left out and left behind, if you can do that on a state level, especially in the deep south, and particularly in Georgia given how large a state it is.

KS: And important economically.

Absolutely, it’s the eighth-largest state in the nation. That if we figure out how to crack the code there, you have then an exportable set of solutions that we can take around the country.

And particularly for me, it’s a personal issue. I’m doing very well now, but I still have family members in Mississippi and in Georgia who struggle and who don’t always know where the next solution is going to come from. Being the governor means the opportunity to be this intercessor between the federal government and local government, to make certain that people are getting the services they need and that we do have an effective private sector and effective nonprofit sector, and a responsive public sector that really delivers services.

HR: Talk a little bit about the progression in Georgia. Georgia’s never had a female governor.


HR: Never had an African-American governor.


HR: Actually, there’s never been a black woman as governor anywhere in the country.


HR: And so Georgia ought to be the first. Why not? But talk a little bit about the progression in Georgia. I know you spend a lot of time talking about why you think you can win, and we’ll talk a little bit about the political landscape. But the economy in Georgia’s really changed and I’m really interested in how that change has also changed the politics.

Georgia has always been a tipping point state for the deep south. Georgia was the state that when the rest of the south remained deeply mired in arguments about segregation, Georgia moved a little further. The issue of the economy, when Birmingham doubled down on trains, it was Georgia that decided that airplanes seemed like the thing of the future. Georgia has always been home to more economic capacity than other southern states.

I think, whether you’re looking at technology or looking at agriculture or the service industry, Georgia’s always been the tip of the spear. What that has meant in the last 20 years is that Georgia has become one of the fastest growing states in the nation. Between 2000 and 2010, 1.5 million people moved to Georgia. But the difference was this time with immigration, 80 percent of those people were people of color.

That has created a new opportunity in Georgia, where you have economic capacity growing at an incredibly fast clip, at the same time that you have this extraordinary diversity that is very new to the deep south, because this is a diversity of African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander and white.

What this means in terms of economic capacity for Georgia, and political capacity, is that you’re dealing with a very different demographic. Where if we use diversity as a strength it can be I believe the engine that really powers Georgia for the next 30 years. Because not only does the racial demography bring a different — no pun intended — complexion to our economy, it also brings new ideas and new experiences. Because you’ve got people moving into Georgia from other parts of the country, but you also have a growing class within the state that has ownership of what the state should look like.

HR: Is that just in the cities? I mean, Atlanta obviously everyone feels, in so many ways, feels that it’s in the modern age, essentially.

What most people don’t realize, the city of Atlanta itself is about half a million people. When people talk about Atlanta they mean metro Atlanta.

HR: Yeah.

That’s about half the state. Right now, metro Atlanta has gone from being five counties to 20 counties. I think right now, unless you’re in Tennessee or Alabama, you’re in metro Atlanta for some people. Metro Atlanta has grown and it’s grown dramatically. But there are also opportunities in what we would call second-tier cities. Savannah, which has one of the fastest-growing ports in the nation. Columbus, which was the home to TSYS and the fin-tech industry. You’ve got Albany and Macon and Augusta, these different-tiered cities that also are seeing growth. Augusta actually is the home of Fort Gordon, so we’re one of the fastest-growing cyber communities in the nation.

All of these pieces can be leveraged together but we have to be thoughtful about how we do so, because at the same time that Georgia is seeing this burgeoning economy, we’re also mired in deep poverty. Where overall I think it’s 18 percent of the population, but if it’s African American it’s 24 percent, if you’re Latino it’s almost 25 percent of the community is in poverty. We have to navigate both the …

HR: In poverty and underemployed, as opposed to unemployed.

Exactly. Underemployment is extraordinarily problematic in Georgia.

KS: Explain the difference.

Unemployment, you don’t have a job. Underemployment, you have too many of them. Typically it means that you are working less than 40 hours, you’re usually working for the minimum wage or just above it. You’re subject to flex schedules, meaning that you have no control over when you go to work. You more than likely live in a daycare desert, so you don’t have childcare for your children, or if there is childcare it’s either low quality or too expensive.

HR: But you’re not counted in the unemployment statistics.

But you’re not counted.

HR: Which is critical for …

KS: Because you’re working.

Exactly, and the challenge for a lot of underemployed are that they are working poor, and in Georgia that’s exacerbated by the fact that for example you can’t access MedicAid, that we have strict limits on your ability to take advantage of any part of the social safety net. Those challenges pull down our economic capacity, because you have economic immobility, and in fact Atlanta unfortunately is one of the top cities for economic immobility. You are unlikely to move, to ever achieve more.

That lack of economic mobility, that lack of social mobility, if it is not truncated immediately, if we don’t start working towards increasing access to mobility, Georgia runs the very real risk of being stuck where we are and losing that capacity that we’ve always had to be the leading state in the south.

KS: Can you talk about the current political landscape, how you look at it in Georgia? Hilary’s talking about a demographic change and possibly economic change, the interest in attracting more economic growth, which I think Atlanta’s trying to get Amazon. Are they …

HR: I want to talk some about the Amazon issue, yeah, there’s a lot of Amazon solicitation.

KS: Yeah, but you want to bring in people, bring in new fresh companies that will add better employment.


KS: Can you talk about the current political landscape that might be hindering that?

Sure. One of the challenges we have is that we have sort of three Republican parties in the legislature.

KS: Three of them? Oh God.

They’re all called Republicans but they tend to factionalize, in that you have a Business Conservative party, that is the more traditional Republican.

KS: The old kind of Republican.

You have Economic Libertarians, who see the Chamber of Commerce and the business class as the enemy. And then, you have a religious Libertarian group, which is not necessarily endemic to the south but we perfect a lot of these things. That group sometimes is pushing those conversations, like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, those issues.

The problem for the Republican party has been that they have had to try and navigate all three factions at the same time. Which created opportunities for me as a leader and for Democrats under my leadership to be very successful. When the economic Libertarians didn’t like the fact that we needed to improve our transportation tax structure, it was Democrats that provided the votes to get it done. As a result we were actually able to invest in transit, we got the state to do transit dollars for the first time.

HR: That’s you working with the business Republicans.

That’s me, exactly, working with business Republicans. On environmental issues, I have been able to negotiate and work with economic Libertarians on environmental issues. Not by framing them as environmental issues but by framing them as property rights issues. So we’ve been able to push back on stream buffers, on some gas pipeline issues that were really fraught for the environment, but not by trying to convince them. With the religious liberty folks, we just agree to disagree. Although, I will say that I was able to block a tax bill in 2012, working with the Southern Baptists, because they would have eliminated some important deductions.

But what I would say writ large is that the composition of the state and our politics are not reflected in our legislature, but they are often reflected in the battles we have about the big issues. We recently unfortunately passed a gun bill that put guns on college campuses. That bill was roundly fought by people of all political stripes. The challenge is that you have to have a political leader who is comfortable continuing to push back both against her party and the other side. Governor Deal did that on some issues and he didn’t on other issues.

I think the political climate is ripe for a new type of leadership that I bring, which is someone willing to compromise. Because when I’m elected, I say hopefully, in 2018, there’s no chance that I will have a majority in the House or the Senate. But my leadership has always required that I be able to work in cooperation with others, building coalitions, building capacity. I think that’s true for anyone who’s running for office this time. We have to understand that the Georgia of 30 years ago does not exist, demographically, economically and in terms of the composition of what the business climate can sustain and needs. You’re going to have to have everyone at the table because there just aren’t enough of the old guard to keep it going.

KS: Talk about that idea. It sounds so healthy of you and an adult way to talk about politics, I’m not used to this right now.

I’m sorry.

KS: I want to talk about that in the next section on the national issues, but one of the things is bringing more fast-forward companies to states like that. These companies have any choices they want. Amazon is … Hilary, why don’t you talk about this idea of Amazon coming.

HR: It’s interesting …

KS: It’s like Willy Wonka.

HR: I’m curious about, as an elected official, we’ve seen the push over the last couple of weeks of people offering up their firstborn to get Amazon to come to the state. Georgia has had some of the most creative and well-reported sort of funny solicitations.

KS: What was the city changing the name?

HR: Stonecrest, Georgia, offered to change the name of their community to Amazon.

KS: That’s a good name. Amazon, Georgia, is a good name.

HR: Elect Jeff Bezos mayor of Amazon, Georgia. But then you have others like Cathy Woolard running for mayor of Atlanta, who says, “You know what, we’re not going to give away the store. We want a partnership, we want you to come, but we shouldn’t be in the business of giving away the store.” What do you do? How do you appeal to the tech industry? A lot of our listeners are in the tech world.

KS: And it’s where the jobs are.

HR: How do you appeal to the tech industry for why people should be investing in Georgia, getting the money out of Silicon Valley, moving to the next level? How are you going to …

KS: That is their thought, a lot of them want to talk about this now because politically they’ve been pushed that way to do so, but they definitely … You have Mark Zuckerberg visiting everybody in the world. They’re all on little visits to the real … I always think, real people, I’m like, “You’re real. Okay, but okay.” I don’t think they want to be thought of as real people versus you. How do you look at that, for example?

I think there are a combination of issues. One is that I am weary of tax incentives as a means of attracting business.

HR: It’s usually sports stadiums.

It’s not just that. Especially in the last 50 years there’s been this sort of race to sell your community to get … Foxconn in Wisconsin is an example. It is not a bad thing to try to attract business. It is not a problem to use tax incentives as a means to attract those businesses. But those tax incentives cannot cripple the very community they’re intended to help.

HR: Welcome to San Francisco.

Right, and so one of the challenges, especially in the deep south — and this is true in other parts of the country but I can speak to Georgia. When we say tax incentives what we usually mean are tax abatements. It means you’re not investing in property taxes. You’re not paying, the company that comes doesn’t pay property taxes. That means you’re not investing in schools, you’re not investing in infrastructure, you’re not investing in safety. That comes at a cost because you’re usually bringing new people to the community who are going to use all of these services. I think where the mayoral candidates who’ve pushed back against this stand, and where I am, is that you want incentives to actually incentivize growth but not cripple the underlying infrastructure of a community.

HR: So what are those incentives?

One incentive Georgia’s done extraordinarily well, the film credit. The film credit is not about having new movies made in Georgia by themselves. Georgia started it’s film credit around the time that Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Toronto were really starting to sunset some of theirs. New York had one that has reduced its investment. The point behind that incentive was that it wanted to bring enough, put enough in the pipeline, have enough supply that you could actually grow and stabilize the supporting characters for films, so craft industries, construction, actually having filmmakers who could be there, creating studios.

You were growing an industry and an infrastructure for your economy that was going to have outside inputs in terms of the delivery, which is the films. But you are actually stabilizing, creating enough supply chain that you constantly had the ability to sustain those jobs. In the tech space, Georgia’s opportunity is to make sure that we are actually growing the kind of workers to sustain a tech economy. That means that if you are incentivizing a company to come by destabilizing the educational system, you are not going to have people who stay for very long. But it also means that we have to think about economic incentives, like the ability not only to attract a company but to help retain it by making certain that you have access to capital, not just … sometimes startup capital, sometimes it’s that seed stage, and sometimes it’s coming in as part of a B round.

The state of Georgia has not done that as effectively as I think it could. But it’s also recognizing that when we talk about tech there are variations on that theme. Georgia has perfect fintech, financial technology. We are the payment solutions corridor. I actually am the co-owner of a fintech company call NowAccount. We help move capital to small businesses using technology. But you also have agrotech, Georgia’s largest single industry is agriculture. There is a space for agrotech and biotech.

So I think the opportunity for Georgia, when we think about tax incentives and we think about tech as a source of capital raising and wealth creation for our communities, is to make sure that we integrate tech with what already exists and what works there.

HR: Right, and what works there, so they don’t just come in and …


HR: What you bring uniquely to the table, is what you’re saying.


KS: All right, we’re here with Stacey Abrams. She’s a candidate for governor of Georgia. We’re talking about Georgia itself but we’re going to move on a little bit to the whole national political scene. She formerly served in Georgia’s general assembly and was a House minority leader. And we’re here also with Hilary Rosen, who’s my co-host. She’s a political … Are you a political thing?

HR: I’m a political thing.

KS: You’re a creature of the swamp.


HR: Swamp creature.

KS: We’ll be right back.


We’re here with Stacey Abrams. She is a candidate for governor of Georgia. She has been a politician, a pretty longtime politician, in Georgia’s general assembly and was House minority leader. We’re talking about Georgia as a microcosm for the country and some of the politics that have been going on.

Now, you talked about three Republican parties in Georgia. You left out the Trumps, the Trumpists, I don’t know, whatever you call them. Let’s talk about the national political scenes, because you’ve been pretty vocal on that. So let’s talk a little bit about how you assess that, because being governor of Georgia is going to be … Governors are now playing a very important national role and not just within their state.

HR: Absolutely.

No, look, I think that some and each of those categories would count themselves as Trumpist. I think the challenge for the Republican party is no one knows what that means. I will leave it to them to figure out their taxonomy. I would say for me and for the national conversation, governor has become increasingly important the more impotent our congressional leadership becomes. The inability to pass legislation, the inability to determine that legislation should or should not be passed, is forcing responsibility on state leaders in ways that we have not seen in recent years.

HR: Absolutely.

The opportunity thought is that this could create those coalitions and those cooperative relationships that we haven’t seen in a very long time. I point to the fight over Graham-Cassidy.

HR: Which is the health care bill.

Health care bill. When you have the governor of Ohio standing shoulder to shoulder with the Democratic governor of California, that is not a normal thing to see in our politics today.

HR: Both opposing.

Both opposing, and were willing to work together to bring their folks, both from each side of the aisle, to oppose that bill, was incredibly important. I think the inflection point we’re facing in our country is that as the national narrative becomes more toxic, state leaders have an opportunity not only to lead but to send a signal for what people should expect of their leaders. We’ve gotten to this place where we are willing to expect little, and so I think one of the exciting things for me is that we can show what real leadership looks like.

I don’t want to be the governor of Democrats, I want to be the governor of Georgia. That means, though, that I began with Democratic philosophies, Democratic values, but it also means that I have to be open to and accepting of the fact that compromise is a necessary part of political leadership. No one gets everything they want, as the current president is discovering. Our national politics has to remember why it’s there, and that is to improve the lives of others. That sounds very halcyon and nostalgic but it’s real, it’s why we do this, or at least should be why.

HR: But isn’t it true, though, that you’ve got essentially national Progressives who have drawn such a bright line against cooperating with Republicans, cooperating with President Trump, even where they agree with him. Dianne Feinstein, a senator from California, got excoriated for simply wishing he becomes a good president. Not even for a specific proposal. So how do you, as a Progressive, reconcile this, what seems like a brighter and tougher stance by Progressives against working with Republicans.

KS: And the toxic environment, too, and how you assess that.

Part of the suspicion comes from a recent history of Democrats proclaiming values but not living them, and not even proclaiming them for the entirety of an election. They are very progressive until they win the primary, and then suddenly you can’t get them to take a picture with you. People who strongly believe in choice suddenly become wishy-washy on their language and don’t want to be seen in a photograph with anyone from Planned Parenthood. And so part of what you see in the reaction on the left is a worry that any degree of verbal compromise simply portends your intention to wholly and completely compromise your values.

We’ve seen this on the Republican side as well. I think the reality and responsibility is for candidates like myself to proclaim our progressive values consistently, but to talk about them in the context of how you get things done. The best example I can give is that my opponent in my primary in Georgia has taken me to task for working with Republicans to save a scholarship program that Democrats created. It’s a fantastic program, it was on the verge of bankruptcy, everyone agrees. She should have had me say no because anything Republicans produced … I can’t quite articulate what she thinks should have happened.

HR: You shouldn’t give the governor a victory.

You shouldn’t give the governor a victory. But the reality was, you had college students who were risking possibly losing everything, because their plan was to impose an SAT-ACT requirement that would have stripped money away from thousands of students. Instead, I worked with him to create a two-tiered program. They got what they want, we got slightly less but we still maintained 80 percent to 90 percent of the scholarship.

We also saved pre-K, because that was going to be slashed to half-day and to only part of the week. If you’ve never had to watch a parent try to leave work and know that they could lose their job for going to get their kid, you don’t understand why that is such a terrible idea.

HR: Let’s look at something around electoral politics in Georgia, though. The most nationally well-known issue of course in the last year was the race to fill secretary Price’s congressional seat. You have a Berniecrat, Jon Ossoff, running against Karen Handel. That race cost something like $ 35 million?

Two things. One …

HR: So …

Go ahead.

HR: The amount of money I’m sure you’d love to have for your governor’s race went into that single losing congressional race for a Democrat. I’m wondering how you see, I’m sure this is the question you get everywhere when you leave Georgia, how do you see how the politics favor actually electing Democrats in these so-called more purply district, if you can’t win races like that?

I think there are two pieces. One is that Ossoff’s race was not a Democratic-leaning district. That was a district that Republicans had won by nearly 30 points a few months before.

HR: Not purple.

Not purple.

HR: But Hillary Clinton only lost it by two points.

She lost it by two points against Trump. The reality is the south has always been very good at voting one way locally and another way nationally. Which is why you had Democratic governors long after we’d abandoned voting Democrats for president. That narrative and that capacity didn’t change simply because Trump won the election.

No. 2, the demography of that district is very different. It was one of the wealthiest districts in the state. It is the most educated district, I believe, in the nation. It is 75 percent white. That is not the composition of Georgia. But what Jon did very well was that Jon for the first time in a long time actually invested in turning out voters who never hear from candidates. That’s why Jon had presidential-level turnout in a special election that would normally yield maybe 12 percent turnout.

HR: I’ve heard you say that there are … You know, in politics we have something we call the base, everybody’s got their base. And then what you have at the next level is the persuadables. And that everybody spends the majority of their time trying to persuade the persuadables and turning out their base. I’ve heard you say that you think that people of color are considered for Democrats the base, but you think really the reason that Hillary Clinton lost was because they weren’t the persuasion voters.

Exactly. When we talk about persuasion in politics, we typically refer to a persuasion of ideology. “I’m going to convince you to believe what I believe. “We have a different challenge with people of color in the Democratic party. We have to persuade Democrats that their behavior should change, that it’s worth voting. That’s where we fall down.

We don’t invest in persuading voters of colors, particularly black voters, that the action of voting is actually meaningful. Instead we spend most of our money and most of our time trying to convince people who’ve told us they do not agree with us fundamentally that, well, this time you do. Therefore we leave votes on the table. In Georgia, that’s more than a million votes, and we lose by 200,000.

HR: Interesting.

KS: So they’re misallocating their funds.

They’re misallocating their funds, and that’s not to say that you don’t go on television. But you have to use television for what it’s intended to be, which is a reinforcement tool. It is not a conversion tool. You only convert people on the doors, you only persuade them in conversation. So Democrats have to believe, No. 1, that you should invest in field, No. 2 that you should invest in field in communities of color. Because the reality is, yes, most communities of color are Democratic.

HR: They just don’t vote.

They just don’t vote, because that’s a choice. I’m not going to take time off of my two jobs to go and vote for someone who does not sound like they actually will represent me. The way we try to persuade the other side is by essentially becoming milquetoast Democrats, or Republican light.

I think the opportunity is to invest early in field for communities of color and progressive whites, because we have to think about the fact that there are a lot of low-income single white women, there are a lot of millennials who do not look like they should be in an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. They all deserve the kind of time and attention we’re willing to give …

KS: To get them to actually vote.

To get them to actually vote.

HR: So you’re going to get to test that, obviously, in your campaign.


HR: I’m wondering what you think the implications are for national Democrats going forward. Does that mean we should be going more left, if you will, to sort of convince people that there’s an us versus them?

It’s not about going more left. It’s about going deeper. That’s the difference. We keep pretending that it’s an A-B conversation. What it really is, is A, A plus one, A plus two, it’s going deep and actually having conversations. But to use tech jargon, I am the A-B testing of the 2018 election.

KS: Many people think that, yeah.

I am running my campaign beginning with a conversation. I’m spending money in ways that for most campaigns, if this were a startup would say I’m spending money on the wrong things. I should be investing only in the tech and I’m investing in some other pieces of it.

We’re investing in talking to voters on the ground now. That means that I’m not going to have the splashy disclosure report in 2018, because I’m going to have spent a lot of money. But I believe fundamentally that we have seen what the other side looks like. We keep losing elections. My campaign will be a pure testing ground, a pure experiment for the messages that work, for the turnout models. But it doesn’t mean that I have to change how I talk about issues. I sound the same today as I did when I first started in politics. The difference is that I don’t plan to shift when I win the primary to win the general.

HR: There’s a lot of talk right now in Silicon Valley by some progressive leaders, like Reid Hoffman and others, about they can use some of their tech know-how to reinvent politics, to reinvent success in elections. Are you meeting with people like that and trying to build, use your race and the conversation as a model for something bigger?

KS: Because some of us are like, uh-uh.

Well, here’s the thing. We are already using Organizer, which is a fantastic tool for actually talking to voters and getting the average volunteer comfortable with field. Because one of your challenges is how do you talk to that many people quickly enough? You use volunteers, but if they have to have 15,000 pieces of paper and walk around with a clipboard, they’re not going to do it more than twice, unless they’re hardcore.

Organizer is a tool that helps make it faster. We’re using Hustle, it’s a text messaging app that’s helping us connect millennials in particular, but writ large communities together, using text. We are having conversations with other tech gurus, because we want to find a way to do this. I point people back to the ’08 campaign. We learned the wrong lesson, I think sometimes, from Obama’s campaign. He did not win because of technology. He did not win because of money. He won because he talked to people on the ground and organized them. He used technology as a tool to accomplish that. He used television as a tool to communicate that. He used media as a means and as a channel for reaching people. But he never forgot that the fundamental was talking to folks.

And so to your point, I believe my campaign will be able to prove it out because we’re going to elect a black women as a governor of the United States. But we’ve already got some pretty good metrics that are showing us, people who haven’t voted in years past are actually talking to our campaign. People who are registered but don’t turn out are volunteering. Those are some interesting metrics. We have to get them to scale and we can’t use them to extrapolate too much just yet. But it’s also why we had to start so early, if I waited until May of the primary to start this conversation, there is no path to victory. But by starting in June of 2017 and really launching our hardcore field in July, we were able to get good data that we can evaluate.

We are working with some great national firms to help us really understand what we’ve learned, and we have to have time to adapt. Any startup that’s pushing a new product, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes early and you’ve got to extract all of the information you can as quickly as possible so you can adapt and build new things.

KS: Right.

HR: Using Hustle and Organizer is interesting. I’m curious about whether you think social media has become so poisoned and populated, or whether you think things like Facebook and Twitter are still really good viable organizing tools for you.

Absolutely. In Georgia, 80 percent of our potential voters are on Facebook. So it absolutely is a tool for communication. That’s why I wanted to talk about technology, media, social media, television, radio. I’ve got as of now 28,000 followers on Twitter, which — I don’t know 28,000 people. That is an amazing tool for me to use to push out messaging.

HR: Tell our listeners right now your Twitter handle.

My Twitter handle is @StaceyAbrams. I can be found on Facebook, Stacey Abrams. I can be found on Instagram and I believe I’m also on Snapchat. I’m 43, so I am getting into the weeds about what I actually am on, but I think if there’s a social media platform, I have a presence there.

KS: Yeah, all right. So how are you using those? How do you look at those? Because again, Hilary said, right now they’re all in trouble for things they did.

Absolutely. Facebook is a really good tool for us to push out our messaging. Twitter is snippets. You can do a good Twitter thread, but there’s only so much you can use it for. But it’s very helpful for pushing out information about policy and getting people to understand …

KS: And events.

And events. And getting people to understand in quick fashion why they care. Facebook gives you a little more space to talk about it. It’s great for pushing out events. It’s also fantastic for ads. We can drive your attention to issues that we want you to pay attention to. Instagram is a way to build enthusiasm, because people see where you are, they understand that you care about their communities. I’ve now exhausted my knowledge. I don’t know what Snapchat does.

KS: That’s okay, it’s not really good for campaigns. But when you think about that idea, are you also on the lookout, given the meddling in the election by — and the use of election tools by — the Trump campaign, very effective usage, some possibly problematic from other countries. Do you think about that a lot? Because here’s something that could happen in your own campaign. Are you on the lookout for that?

We are.

HR: Maybe not the Russians but at least the opponents can …

Look, there was a recent story about some of the fallacious information that’s been shared about me, and that’s going to happen. The issue is making certain that …

HR: I’m sorry, what did they say about you? You don’t want to …

No, it’s okay. There were questions about why I’m single and questions about my beliefs. It’s okay. Here’s the thing, politics has always been this way. It has been thus forever. It’s the way politics work. Where social media can be effective, or harmful, is the extent to which you let it go unanswered. I don’t know if either of you watch “South Park.”

HR: Mm-hmm.

There was a recent “South Park” episode about fake news.

HR: It was great.

It was wonderful. It’s real. The reality is, our mission, and certainly the mission of my campaign, is that we’re not going to get into this death spiral of negativism. I don’t intend to win by denigrating my opponent. I don’t intend to win by denying her humanity or in general by casting aspersions on whoever the Republican is. That’s the wrong use of social media. But you’ve got to be prepared for it and be ready to respond.

Once thing I think we are doing very effectively is getting our message out to such a degree and with such granularity, that when people hear it they don’t automatically believe it to be so. There are some conversations I don’t really care about, so you can question whether or not, why I don’t have a boyfriend, I’m just really bad at dating. Would love to find the guy, but he has not presented himself and as an introvert, I’ve been inside my house.

My point is, that that piece is irrelevant to me. What’s relevant to me is are you pushing out bad information about my policies? Are you pushing out bad information about my politics? Or worse, are you demeaning the people who should be invested? Those are the things that we should be talking about, and those are the ways you should use social media.

KS: We’re here with Stacey Abrams and I’m joined by my co-host Hilary Rosen, who is a political strategist and a CNN analyst who’s here for the month of November. We’re talking with political guests and Stacey, who is running for governor of Georgia, is our one this week.

Stacey, we just started talking about how campaigns use, how your campaign is using it, how you push off social media issues and things like that. I want to talk about where things are going, because if you win the governorship you’ve got to be thinking about a lot of big issues around economic development, obviously. Some of the topics that I think are going to start to really rise to the forefront — which I’m interested in, very interested in — are automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving, education and training, infrastructure.

A lot of these things have to do with the creation of jobs, and a lot of them have to do with the destruction of jobs, or jobs as they stand today. One of my premises is that — and you can tell me if I’m wrong — is that there’s a top group of people in this country, 10 percent or whatever, who love the future, embrace it, and the top, top 1 percent is doing rather well from it, billionaires. They become billionaires.

There’s a group in the bottom that are utterly lost, they’re not part of the discussion, they’re not part of the technology. They may have a cellphone but the future’s not a good thing for them and the future’s not built for them in any way. Then there’s a group, most people are in the middle, from the working class to the, not the upper-middle class but in that range. Which, they love technology in a lot of ways. They see it’s the future, and yet they’re frightened of it. All these technologies that are coming are quite serious and it’s another major shift in how we do work.

How do you think of those things? Do you think of them at all? Because I see our federal government not at all understanding what’s coming down the pike, so I think it is up to governors to really understand it.

Absolutely. I think in a state like Georgia, where we have every one of those striations, it’s incredibly important. Only 60 percent of Georgians in rural Georgia have access to the internet. Yeah, 60 percent.

KS: Whoa, that’s low.

In the metro Atlanta area, in the urban areas, it’s 100 percent, but they can’t afford it. So we have to start with some basic fundamentals. One is that automation is coming. Technology is coming. The future is here. Once you understand that, the question is what role and responsibility does government have? To be intercessor, or to be a mitigator?

Intercessor is to stop something from happening, or to divert it. Mitigator is to say, “Okay, it’s coming, so how do we make sure we’re ready for it when it gets here?” I think Georgia is not yet as engaged as it should be because we still have to get caught up with the 20th century when it comes to internet access and broadband. But there are other ways where we are thinking …

HR: You can jump over it, so you know …

I think that the challenge is that, again if you look at the demography of Georgia and the economic demography in particular, again you’ve got a quarter of your population that is of color, is at or below the poverty line. That means that they’re in that lowest band you’re talking about. Probably we’re not a high-wealth state. You do have some billionaires. I don’t know many of them, but they’re there.

But Georgia built its economy on agriculture. There’s automation happening there, so what do you do? How do make certain that families that have been isolated from technology, and isolated from good education, are getting it? Part of that means that as the governor I have to think about education.

KS: Right, exactly.

You have to think about the fact that you should be able to learn robotics no matter where you go to school. I’m working with …

HR: And that farms are more automated.


HR: And equipment is automated and the like.

Exactly, that STEAM education is not for just those kids who are going to be gear heads. STEAM education is for everyone. So making certain that no matter which school district you’re in, no matter which school you’re in, that you have full education and full opportunity. It’s making sure that we are providing retraining opportunities, that’s why our technical colleges are so critical. Advanced manufacturing … Community colleges in some states, we call them technical colleges in Georgia.

Advanced manufacturing skills can be learned, but they can’t be learned two months after you lost your job. So we need to be having this conversations now about what kind of retraining and educational opportunities are we offering to folks. How are we working with the companies that are going to move into automation to make sure that they are partner in the kind of training, so that instead of what we saw during the decline of manufacturing in America, when jobs started leaving, it was sort of a surprise to everyone.

You can anticipate this. We know what’s coming, so let’s have a conversation now with businesses about who are you retraining in your offices? Who are you retraining in your companies to make sure that they are still viable employees? For those that you don’t think you’re going to need, what’s your responsibility in working with government to make sure that they’re being given a longer lead time in figuring out what happens next?

KS: And that they get something from it.

HR: So when you think about nationally, President Trump and the Republicans are not really having this conversation, as Kara said.

KS: Not at all.

HR: They’re not having the conversation.

KS: I don’t think they know how to turn the computer on.

HR: How do you think Democrats are doing in putting ideas on the table and having a conversation that’s relevant for people and presenting a real alternative to what the Republicans are doing?

I think there are some Democrats who are talking about it. I think we have … It’s being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We’re so focused right now on the mere survival of America that we’re not necessarily having the full conversations about what the next iteration of economic waves look like.

HR: Whose fault is that?

I would say that we have a very dysfunctional presidency and we have an impotent congressional structure that right now doesn’t seem to be able to think about anything.

KS: It’s super entertaining in the worst of ways.

HR: Oh my God.

KS: It is. It’s riveting, is what it is.

Yeah, it is.

HR: On both sides.

Yeah. I would say that for Democrats — and it’s one thing I talk about in my campaign — Democrats spend so much time fighting for survival we forget to think about success. We don’t talk about what happens after you survived, because we’re trying to preserve what we have. We’re not always, I think, doing enough to talk about what’s next. I do think Democrats are at fault because we have to be anticipating. Part of that’s believing we’re going to win again. I think that can be part of our impetus.

I will say, Jayne Kim, who is a former city council member in San Francisco, she may still be on the city council. Jayne is talking about automation. What does that mean? Because she’s at the heart of it. So she’s having conversations with colleagues and with folks around the country about how do we adjust for that? That’s smart and necessary.

KS: I like Jayne, but she’s a little screamy about tech. I’m like, “Calm down, wait a minute.” She’s doing a little fear mongering.

HR: Do you think national Democratic leaders are spending enough time with people like you, trying to say, “What would be working locally? What should we be doing?” Is there enough coordination for new ideas?

Not yet. I will say this, I think for Jayne and others, the people who are thinking about it are thinking about it so deeply, there’s not a lot of space for other conversations. So the responsibility of folks like me, it’s to seek out those conversations. Which is why I know what Jayne is doing, and I’ve spent time looking at futurist narratives to understand what this means, not only here but what’s happening in other countries. How are they adapting?

It’s the responsibility of good politicians and good public servants to educate yourself about what’s out there. It’s the responsibility of those who do this work to make sure that you share it, that it’s not this echo chamber of conversation. It’s the responsibility of our national leadership to be able to think about what this means, because we are never going to bring back all the jobs we used to have. It will never happen. Therefore we have to not only prepare for the 21s century and where we are today, but we have to prepare for the second half of the 21st century and where we want to be then. We’re not doing that sufficiently.

HR: So, it’s put-you-on-the-spot time. What national Democrats do you think get this?

I’ve heard Cory Booker say interesting things about this. I think that Ro Khanna has had conversations about this. I think Elizabeth Warren, and the way she is pushing the narrative about how we invest, is anticipating that we’ve got to have an economic system that can sustain the transitions that are happening.

I have not seen this become a central conversation for anyone yet. Again, I think part of it is that we’re trying to survive so we haven’t really thought about, how do we fight on a new front? I think that’s one of the places where I want to enter the conversation, because this is a conversation that’s going to have to happen on a state-by-state level. Because what’s going to happen in Georgia is not what South Dakota’s facing. So, for Heidi Heitkamp, she has a different set of issues she’s got to be thinking about. It’s not what’s happening in California, because California is like a whole new world.

We have to each own our responsibility for how we take these national conversations and localize them. But none of us have the luxury of waiting until it happens to start thinking about it.

KS: So are you surprised by, I think much of the Democratic party feels like someone who’s just on the sidelines, it’s like just anti-Trump, and that’s not for anything. It feels like that. It feels like most, much of the Republican party feels like that too, but it’s all in … I just spent the morning with Senator Jeff Flake and Bob Corker.

How do you then do that? How do you get Democrats … because it would seem like a very advantageous time to start to talk about what you mean, or what you stand for, rather than against something.

Being for something doesn’t mean you can’t also be against. Again, this is the whole walking and chewing gum at the same time. We’ve got to be against Trump because he is against us. He is against our families, he’s against our communities. He has no positive programming that I can see that would actually benefit the people for whom I stand, and that is irrespective of race, gender …

HR: And many of whom voted for him.

Yes. Donald Trump is an apostasy of actual progress. Put that aside. So we have to be resistant to that, because otherwise we will start to normalize and internalize his narrative, and will start to see even more than we do today immigrants as specters against whom we have to fight and we will think that being transgender means the end of the world. So we can’t relent on the fight.

HR: Absolutely.

But we at the same time have to prepare for the fact that he’s not going to be there forever. That’s why I’m running the campaign I’m running, because I believe Democrats have to figure out a different way to win. We lost this last election, and there are important inputs for us to understand why we lost.

But the reality is, they’re just going to get trickier the next time. No one’s going to ever make it easy to win, so we have to think about what are the things that we own, what’s in our arsenal, how do we navigate? That’s the place where I worry about our party because I think we spend so much time in retrospection that we don’t actually learn lessons.

KS: Yeah, there are a bunch of agonizers, for sure. What are you worried about for your election? Besides people saying weird things about you on social media. That goes and comes and goes, sometimes it’s super effective, often if it’s true it’s effective. But what is the thing that you’re worried about as a candidate, is not doing what? What do you think is your vulnerability?

My vulnerability is that, it’s a viability argument. When no one has done what you want to do, it’s hard for people to see that it can be done. As a black woman running to be … I picked the deep south, so it’s convincing people Georgia is a winnable state, and then convincing people that a black woman can win Georgia. The numbers say I’m right on both counts. But viability is a hard thing to explain to people.

It’s also hard to explain the urgency of this, because most people just kind of relegate the south to the south. Georgia is the eighth-largest state. We’re one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, one of the largest economies in the country. You can’t get to America without coming through Atlanta. So stabilizing and growing Georgia is essential to America, and I need people to understand the urgency of the governor’s race there.

My vulnerability is that I’m worried that I am not spending enough time talking to enough people outside of the campaign trail. I spent a lot of time talking to average citizens, but this is a race that is won by talking to elites, by talking to the privileged, as well as talking to everyone. My responsibility is to have those broad conversations and those narrow conversations at the same time. I’m afraid this answer sounds like the, “What’s your weakness?” “I care too much.” That’s not what I mean. I hate people who do that.

KS: I don’t care at all. Give me the power I need to change things.

Exactly. So for me, it is making sure that I’m talking to as many people as possible and that they understand what I’m saying, that I am not running to be the black governor. I’m not running to be the Democratic governor. I’m running to build a coalition of voters who will vote for me because they believe in the principles I hold to be true, but to govern for everyone, whether they agreed with me or not.

As a person of color, it is a vulnerability that everything I say for some people gets filtered through my race. They cannot hear anything else I say if I mention race. I’m going to talk about race because race is an inherent part of who I am, who we are as Americans, and it does dictate a lot of our policies. But that doesn’t mean that I am so reductive as to be unable to have broader conversations.

HR: Do you feel like people push you into a conversation about race just because we’re in such a divided country and it was such a powerful conversation during the presidential election?

I think people are confounded by how to grapple with our changing diversity, and they are desperate for someone who can give them a short answer to a long, complicated problem. When I speak I do not speak just as myself, I speak as every black person they’ve never met, I speak on behalf of every person of color that they may like or dislike. I don’t have the luxury of not speaking because I happen to be the only one, and so I have the responsibility to be a voice. But that also comes with the very problematic responsibility of being the voice the people hear.

So if I say something wrong it’s attributed to everyone. But also I’m drawn into conversations that don’t reflect the fact that I’m the most qualified person running for office. I have a really good record. I have been an executive, I’ve been a political leader, I’ve been a civic leader. I’ve gotten good stuff done, and sometimes I am only the black candidate. So anyone else who gets something done, they get credit for that.

KS: Is that the same thing with gender? With gender obviously there’s been so many conversations, like right now, every time I open my thing there’s another sexual harassment lawsuit going on.

The challenge with gender, my opponent in the primary is a woman so the gender piece plays a little less in that, except to the extent that …

HR: Except who’s a better woman.

KS: I’m a better woman.

Exactly, and that there are some incredibly banal conversations held about us, where the men running on the Republican side are treated as individuals fully capable of conversations and …

HR: You guys are just the women.

We’re women, and we have the same first name, so we’re interchange … well, not interchangeable, but we certainly are not held always …

HR: You know, there’s a lot of press about Black Stacey and White Stacey.


KS: What?

HR: Yeah.

KS: What?

HR: Yeah, Black Stacey and White Stacey

Yes. My opponent is Stacey as well. But that’s my point, it is incredibly reductive and we don’t have a lot of conversations about …

HR: It’s interesting, as Black Stacey …

Yes, I am Black Stacey.

HR: You are, and delightedly so, you are seen as a spokesperson for all African Americans.


HR: Hard to imagine that White Stacey is seen as a spokesperson for all white people. Doesn’t happen that way.

KS: But when she gets to the general election she might be.

HR: So it’s kind of the extra burden of leadership, in a way.

KS: Yeah, but when she gets to the general she’ll be the spokesperson for women. You know what I mean? Or you will be, whichever one of you has to also take on that. I’ve always noticed that standards only apply when they’re talking about people of color or women, always.

I always talk about that idea is when they have all these all-male boards and then you say, “Why don’t you have a more diverse board?” They’re like, “We have standards.” I’m like, “You didn’t when you selected those terrible men who are running blank company.” But that’s the only time they bring up the word, which is fascinating to me.

But again, I will ask, sort of as, do you feel like there is an important gender discussion to be going on? Is that a small thing for you to be the first woman governor?

Absolutely. I think …

KS: Same thing with Hillary Clinton, if she had won it would have been a big deal.

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important to note there’s a complicating factor. There’s a race conversation, there’s a gender conversation, and then there’s a black woman conversation. Because black women have a completely separate set of issues that we’ve got to deal with, too. It’s true for a lot of women of color, but it’s most acute for black woman. I had to have a conversation with a reporter once, because he called me “angry” in his story.

HR: Not “hostile”? I get “hostile” a lot. What do you get?

See, what I told him, he could use “outraged,” he could use anything else, but you don’t get to call me “angry.”

HR: I get “charming.”

Of course you do. But there’s language that we use for women, there’s specific language that you cannot use for black women. We have our own lexicon of things that you cannot say or that we cannot do.

HR: Or ways that you cannot behave.


KS: You don’t get to have the same umbrage.

I don’t.

HR: … as other people do.

But to the larger question, yes, being women, I think Stacey Evans is doing an important job too by running. I intend to win, but I think either of us will face a phalanx of issues and gendered conversations. But I want to make sure what people think about is that it’s different running as a white woman than running as a black woman. That’s not right. It’s not easy, but it’s also not a reason not to do it. So one of the conversations I like to have is that regardless of what happens, we’re changing the face of what leadership looks like in Georgia, and that’s an important piece.

HR: It seems clear that regardless of what happens you’re going to be a voice in the Democratic party for many, many years to come.

As long as people will listen, and sometimes when they don’t.

KS: So when you think about the Democratic party going forward, and all parties — because it feels like the Republican party is just fracturing beyond belief, even though they’re in power. Like, completely fractured. Do you imagine a complete changing of the party system? I know everyone talks about this but it kind of feels a little, maybe not, maybe it’s happened before.

Parties are shorthand for the principles we hold to be true. The reason America’s really only ever sustained two parties is that we tend to be very binary in how we talk about who we are. Now, within that we will fight about who owns what part of the, our half of the binary. But that’s just the way we are.

I think that parties always recast what they believe and evolve in their basic premises, but do I believe that we’re suddenly going to have a parliamentary style system with 115 parties? No. I think that we will remain by and large a two-party system where the two parties have no idea who’s there.

HR: Do you think that part of the cynicism of the people around this is connected to the fact that people don’t believe that the parties represent them? I was interested in a recent Essence Magazine poll. African American women have traditionally been the most loyal Democrats ever. I think Hillary Clinton got 95 percent of African American women votes, the highest of any population.

KS: I think that was in …

HR: But there was a recent poll that said that African American women are down to 74 percent of support for the Democratic party, from something like 86 percent just a year ago. That increasingly people are feeling like the party’s not speaking to them. It’s not that they’re moving to Republicans.


HR: And so to Kara’s point, do you have to have an alternative system, or is it just that we’re not speaking in a way that people need to hear?

It’s not that we need a different system.

HR: Or not doing anything that they care about?

We need to do things they care about, that’s how you engender loyalty, that’s how you engender engagement. You actually speak a language that reflects their needs, and you do something. Democrats have not always done the things we say we’re going to do, in part because we never win, because we don’t bother talking to everyone. My point is that we have to truly be the big-tent party we’ve always said we were.

But that means under the tent you’re going to have the Bernie folks, and you’re going to have the Hillary folks, and you’re going to have the Obama folks, and you’re going to have the none-of-the-above folks. That’s okay. My campaign actually is comprised of folks from every faction of the Democratic universe, intentionally. Because I cannot win this without building a coalition. Democrats cannot win without coalition building. But what we have to do is value every member of the coalition, and that’s what black women are responding to. That we do not always feel valued because we are not part of the conversation in leadership. We’re not part of the investment. We’re not part of the …

HR: You’re taken advantage of as the base.

Exactly, because it’s not a base if you can’t count on it.

KS: As opposed to the Trump base, it’s not an angry, raging base.


KS: It’s just, “Ugh.”

It’s very pragmatic.

KS: And also like, “I’m just not going …”

HR: Georgia has a significant young population.

We do.

HR: Which is somewhat unique. So I find it interesting that among 18- to 21-year-olds who register to vote for the first time, 35 percent of them register as Independents. That means they’re up for grabs.

I wouldn’t say they’re up for grabs. I think it reflects the fact that they don’t know what the parties mean.

KS: That’s right.

Their political behavior tends to signal that they’re mostly Democrats, but they’re not going to call themselves something that doesn’t reflect who they are and doesn’t reflect their values. Which is why it is so critical for Democratic candidates who have progressive values to talk about those values consistently, to never sway from those values.

Which is not the same as, “I can’t work with you.” It simply means you know where I’m starting out. Here are the principles I stand on. Here’s how I’m going to filter information. Here’s the goal I have for you. A good political leader knows how to get everyone to go there with him or her, and a great political leader can get everyone to go there and makes them all think it was their idea before they got there.

KS: And on that note, Stacey, you’re so happy. That was the most pleasant political conversation I’ve had.

HR: That is pretty amazing.

KS: I didn’t have to listen to some dumb Trump thing, thank God.

HR: The fact that you’re a southern Democrat, too, is fascinating.

KS: I know. Stacey, good luck.

Thank you.

KS: It was great talking to you. Thanks for coming on the show and thank you Hilary again for bracing political discussion. We’ll have another one next week.

Recode – All

Recode Daily: It’s suddenly sale season for digital media companies

Plus, this week it’s Comcast that wants to buy part of 21st Century Fox, Williams-Sonoma buys an AR startup for its shopping experiences, and wearable books.

It’s sale season for digital media companies: Univision is selling a minority stake in the Gawker Media sites it bought via bankruptcy auction last year. Univision wants to keep control of what is now called Fusion Media Group; it’s looking for up to $ 200 million for its sites, which include Deadspin, Gizmodo, and Jezebel, plus the Onion and Fusion TV. And Mashable, which has been for sale forever, is going to sell to Ziff Davis for $ 50 million; in 2016, investors thought it was worth $ 250 million. [Peter Kafka / Recode]

Meanwhile Axios, the media company launched by former Politico leaders a year ago, has raised $ 20 million. The company had previously raised $ 10 million; plans to launch a paywall have been pushed back. But two other high-profile digital media companies — BuzzFeed and Vice — are on track to miss their revenue targets for this year, signaling turbulence in the online ad business. [Ben Mullin / Wall Street Journal]

Last week, we heard Disney was talking to 21st Century Fox about a Big Media Deal; this week, it’s Comcast and Fox. Comcast wants to buy parts of Rupert Murdoch’s international media empire — especially its Sky and Star businesses. But it will have to wait in line: The pending court fight ahead of the AT&T-Time Warner merger will make that deal the bellwether for all future media mergers. And Trump is still a factor.[Edmund Lee / Recode]

Elon Musk showed off Tesla’s new semi-truck. He says production will start in 2019. [Johana Bhuiyan / Recode]

Williams-Sonoma has developed a taste for augmented reality in its shopping experiences, and it’s buying an AR startup called Outwardfor $ 112 million in cash, It’s Williams-Sonoma company’s first technology acquisition since Laura Alber became CEO in 2010. [Jason Del Rey / Recode]

Many were skeptical — and even creeped out — when Amazon launched its Amazon Key service just last month. Now security researchers have already found a flaw in a critical safeguard of the service that lets Amazon delivery people into customers’ homes. A simple program from any computer could disable the internet-enabled camera that is supposed to monitor in-home deliveries, potentially enabling crooks access without being detected. [Andy Greenberg / Wired]

Apple’s first-ever vice president of diversity and inclusion is leaving the company after six months in the position. Denise Young Smith, who was previously Apple’s worldwide head of human resources for three years, will be an executive in residence at Cornell starting in January; she will be replaced at Apple by Christie Smith, who spent 17 years as a principal at Deloitte. Apple released its latest diversity report earlier this month. [Megan Rose Dickey / TechCrunch]

Top stories from Recode

Stitch Fix founder and CEO Katrina Lake is the only woman to lead a tech IPO this year.

Fewer than 8 percent of all U.S. IPOs this year were led by women.

Facebook will livestream 47 college basketball games this season.

Facebook is paying for the streams, which will only be available on Facebook.

The more tech in your job, the more money you make A wider range of jobs requires more tech savvy than ever.

Alibaba was selling counterfeit Brooklyn Nets gear even as its co-founder was buying a stake in the team.

Fake Nets apparel was readily available on the Taobao shopping site.

Will we ever stop using passwords?

On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, 1Password’s Defender Against the Dark Arts (his real title!) answers your questions about security and password management.

This is cool

In case there’s not a cereal box nearby, you can always read your T-shirt.

Recode – All

Full transcript: Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on Recode Decode

“If we’re not vigilant about the rights that we have and the privilege we enjoy, we shouldn’t expect to keep them.”

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, talks about how the century-old nonprofit is evolving to fight antisemitism and other forms of extremism in the digital age.

You can read some of the highlights here, or listen to the entire interview in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network.

Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to your podcast. Or just visit for more.

Today in the red chair is Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. He’s also a social entrepreneur and previously worked in the Clinton and Obama White Houses. Jonathan, welcome to Recode Decode.

Jonathan Greenblatt: Thank you for having me.

No problem. When we talk in the beginning, I want to get your background because you’re also a techy. You’re also a techy. Which is critically important, I think, in your job today. So why don’t we start talking about that, your background a little bit and how you got to the Anti-Defamation League, and then tell us sort of what your charge is right now.

Sure. So, by way of background, I did my undergrad at Tufts and I got my MBA at the Kellogg School of Management. And in between, I worked actually in government. I worked at the Commerce Department in the early ’90s and then I worked at the White House at the National Economic Council.

And why did you do that?

I joined the Clinton campaign when he was running for president.

First Clinton one.

Yeah. I was a work study student at Tufts and he had this idea of young people serving in their community to pay their loans and I thought that was a much better idea than mopping floors and busing tables that I was doing. And so I moved down to Arkansas after I graduated and worked for Governor Clinton.

Wow. Just did that, just moved.

I believed I wanted to fight the good fight.

Right. And so you did that and then it took you to …

He won and I came up to D.C. and I did international economics for five years at the Commerce Department. It was at the time when NAFTA was getting passed, the GATT became the WTO, Hong Kong transitioned over to China, APEC, so it was a time when international trade was really popping. Great time to be working on those issues. And then we tried to understand where’s the economy going. And I worked for a guy named Ira Magaziner at the White House.

Mr. Healthcare.

Exactly. Who then looked at trade issues. And what I saw was, tech was really growing. So we would go out to the Valley to try to understand these little new companies like eBay, Yahoo, Netscape.

Pierre had gone to Tufts.

Exactly. And the long and short of this is, I saw those people were changing the world and I wanted to be a part of that, but I didn’t …

So this was what year?

This was ’95, ’96.

You sure? You were there when I was … there’s not too many people that early.

And I remember when Amazon went out and I remember when Netscape launched. I was on the team at the Commerce Department that piloted Mosaic, the Mosaic browser in ’93, ’94. So I wanted to get into tech. Didn’t know anything about it really other than …

So when you went out there, you saw how like, “Wow, this is cool.” You understood.

Yeah. I remember reading like Peter Schwartz’s “The Long Boom” article in Wired way back when. And I just thought this was the future.

But here you are in Washington.

It’s funny how I came back. So I went and got an MBA and then I went out and I wanted to go to a pre-IPO company that would change the world and I found this little business in Los Angeles called

How did you settle on

I was looking for a business that was in A) a really big market: Real estate’s a trillion dollars. B) Had a great management team, and they came from a bunch of really good companies. C) Had great venture, because I figured that was a proxy for figuring out what company would succeed and John Doerr was on the board. And Mary Meeker was also on the board. She was very involved with it. And then last, it had competitive advantage. I didn’t know anything about real estate, I didn’t own a thing, but they had a deal with the National Association of Realtors and I knew coming from D.C. that alliance would probably be very powerful.

Which, of course, it’s interesting you picked all the safe choices in tech like the company that is now as big as Airbnb, which had none of these advantages, over one of the others.

Right. It’s really internet 1.0 where you’re taking linear business models and sort of just putting it on the web.

Right. Absolutely. So you worked in Los Angeles,

Did that, and they hired me as an assistant product manager. The lowest you could be.

What’s that mean? What’d you do?

I was responsible basically for display ads.


So I was responsible for figuring out …

Which was important on that particular …

Huge. Their business model was, aggregate all of the MLS listings on the web. So you aggregate them, you normalize them so a consumer could search for real estate from anywhere in the country.

Which was a big deal.

Huge. It wasn’t possible before. And they monetized it by selling ads to realtors. And so that’s what I did.

Or home loans or whatever.

Yeah. Well, I basically focused on realtors, but, yeah. Then as it grew we did apartments, we did the financing side, etc.


And it was a great gig and I did it for a few years. The company went public, and grew big, and then had some issues, and it went a little south. I learned I was pretty good at shipping software. I learned I was pretty good at leading a team.

Were you technical at all? Did you have any technical …

No, but you learn. You sit with engineers and you write like a technical specifications document and you learn how to, again, do software.

Right. And so why did you leave our internet cabal?

What happened was, again I learned I was pretty good at driving product, but I was not … I missed public service. Now we were working for Wall Street shareholders — who were anonymous — and I still wanted to change the world.

And you didn’t want to go to another internet company. Google had just gotten started then, that might have been a good choice for you.

I remember when it got started.

Yeah, in ’99.

What happened was my roommate from business school came to me with an idea for a business. This thing called Ethos Water, that became Ethos Water. So basically he had this idea of, could we take bottled water — which is a $ 15 billion category in the U.S. — and use part of the profits to help children around the world get clean water. A billion people lack clean drinking water. And he came from McKinsey, he knew a lot about strategy. A very smart, good person. I was being very operational. At that point, I was running all consumer products for Realtor. So I wanted to do something that was still operational, but more socially responsible.

So water it is.

I left Realtor and we started the business together. So we started Ethos Water out of my house here in LA — or we’re in D.C., I suppose — and we bootstrapped it because no one wanted to [invest]. This is now 2002. Bubble had burst, things were being re-sorted out, and no one wanted to invest in a bottled water company.

Right. Right.

So we bootstrapped it and we … eventually a few of my friends gave us money. It was like, I think they didn’t want to see my wife and I get a divorce. It was like therapy money.

But Ethos got a lot of traction, correct?

It certainly did. And eventually we had that young entrepreneur who started eBay. I met him at TED. I met Pierre at TED 2003 or 2004, and he invested. He was our first big investor. And eventually got it to a really nice size and then we sold it to Starbucks. And then I went to work for Howard Schultz as the Vice President for Global Consumer Products.

So you’ll be in the Schultz administration? We’ll talk about that in a little bit.

Not funny.

I love how he pretends.


“Oh, no, Kara. I’m good.”

More about that later.

Good at lying.

Yeah, so I went to work for Howard. Integrated the business, launched our product on their much larger retail platform. Howard asked me to serve on the board of the Starbucks Foundation because now he had millions in free cashflow to distribute to projects all over the world. Great gig. Enjoyed it. My wife and I had two kids at the time, were back in LA. I was in Seattle, which was not easy.

You moved to Seattle? Oh, so you … I was just in Seattle the other day.

It’s a great town.

Yeah, it is. It’s gotten even better.

It’s really remarkable what’s happened to it. So I went back to LA. I got recruited to run a little magazine business called Good Magazine.

Another interesting entrepreneurial effort.

Exactly. Socially responsible. That was sort of going south. I mean, the print business is not a great business. It wasn’t back then either. And I invested heavy in digital, I invested heavily in online video.

So you’re the publisher?

Essentially CEO. Yeah, like publisher. And that was a great run. And then we had an idea that sort of came out of that, which is all these young people wanted to … They said, “Well, I read your magazine,” or, “I drank your water. Now what?” We had this idea of, could we aggregate volunteer listings? Because it turns out volunteer databases are a lot like MLS. Offline, not standardized, fragmented.

So I pitched an idea at the Googleplex. This was in late 2008, I believe. And I said, “Why don’t we do for volunteer listings what Realtor did for real estate?” And they got excited about it. And so it was a 20 percent project. A bunch of engineers helped me to do it. They invested, and some big companies … P&G put money in, Gap put money in, and we built this thing called All For Good, which was the largest aggregation of volunteer listings on the internet.

And there had been volunteer listing sites.

Sure, there’s VolunteerMatch, Idealist, there were a few others, but they were all, again, not standardized.


So you have to go to multiple places. What we did, we used data feeds and then we reached out and sort of scraped and brought all the listings in one place. And that essentially became this really big technology architecture.

The other innovation that we had at the time was we used APIs. So this was like late ’08, early ’09, social was really beginning to take off and so the innovation was, why would you go to You could use APIs and integrate the listings right into your Facebook feed. Right into whatever kind of site you were using.

Right. Right. Which you all did. And so you were working on that …

And then eventually that grew to a nice size and then that got acquired by Points of Light. You know, the group that President Bush started. Because they have thousands of volunteer centers across the country, they didn’t have a technology architecture. So now it’s being used by all of the managed listings.

Managed listings?

So I had a few of those and they all …

So you did all these different entrepreneurial things. So here you are wandering around from one …

And then I got a call in 2011 somewhere from the West Wing. So President Obama had created this Office of …

The show or the person?

Exactly. President Bartlet called me.

I wish there was a President Bartlet right now.

How we miss him.

How we miss President Bartlet. Let’s take a moment. Especially CJ. All right. So you get a call and you were …

He created this Office of Social Innovation. This really talented woman Sonal Shah, an economist who started it, had left. And he wanted this office, which was supposed to be focused on using innovation to accelerate economic recovery, boost job creation. He wanted someone who’d created jobs, contributed economic recovery to run it.

So, look, I mean I honestly I wasn’t an Obama person, but you get a call from the President, you take it. And I believe in … It’s a call to service. So we came out, my wife and my three kids, and we decided I would do this. So I spent three-and-a-half years working for President Obama and running that office.

So how many people did you have in it? Because I’m assuming it’s not staffed right now at all.

I think it has become … I think it’s become the Office of American Innovation.

Oh, Chris Liddell?

No, that’s Jared.

Okay, that’s Jared. Okay.

It’s the best kind of innovation. It’s American innovation. As opposed to all the other kinds. Yeah, so I probably had half a dozen to 10 people would wax and wane with fellows and details …

Sure. And so what were your initiatives that you worked on?

We did three big things. So No. 1, we tried to find new ways to put people to work. So I was responsible for the national service agenda. Service as a strategy to put people back to work. So like AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, I was responsible for all those programs and expanding them, because the budget was frozen. So we created new programs like FEMA Corps to help with disaster relief and Justice Corps to help with issues on the immigration front, actually.

Secondly, I did all the public-private partnerships for the president. So I worked on Joining Forces, helped set up My Brother’s Keeper, all these different initiatives that tried to find ways you can bring philanthropy and business together to achieve the public interest.

And then thirdly, I worked on the impact investing, or Social Entrepreneurship Agenda. So I worked on boring things like tax policy, ERISA reform, trying to move big swaths of capital from offline — like, passively handled by fund managers in New York — into the economy. And so how we get foundations that have $ 800 billion …

And they do. They only use VCs or whatever.

Exactly. How to make it easier for foundations to put money into jobs that we’re creating … into companies creating jobs. How do we make it easier for pension funds to put their money into firms that are doing like renewables or socially responsible …

So they can find them and invest in them. And there’s funds like that on Wall Street.

More and more. More and more. And so I helped launch the first social impact bonds in the government, launched all the kinds of new programs to create novel financial instruments that used the capital markets more effectively.

So that we could invest in social good, presumably.

That’s right. So social good you got to measure. It’s got a dry financial return. But you could also achieve kind of broader public benefit.

Which is attractive to millennials. That’s one of the many polls they do — one of the endless polls on millennials — that is one thing that sticks out.

It’s unbelievable. So millennials vote with their wallets. And now big firms like BlackRock and Goldman Cap Group and all these other large-scale investment houses are building funds and firms specifically to take advantage of how millennials want to deploy their dollars.

Right, and companies that reflect those values. Interesting. It’s interesting how Amazon’s going around trying to figure out where they’re going to be. I suspect they will not be somewhere that is less than … you know, it’ll be interesting …

They’re figuring it out. They historically haven’t been great at it, but they hired a really effective executive from Business for Social Responsibility, BSR, and they’re now doing interesting stuff on the sustainability front.

Yeah. Absolutely. But I’m thinking of where they’re locating even their facilities that they’re going to pick.

They have to think about all of these issues.

It’ll matter how a state behaves, I think, in a lot of ways. It’ll be interesting.

It’ll matter deeply.

That’s where economic growth will happen.

Economic growth will happen there. They’ll be able to commit to things like public transportation or better infrastructure. Lots of really interesting things.

Yeah, so how did you get to the ADL? Because this is … and what a time to get there.

It’s a funny story. So I was giving a speech in Massachusetts to a room full of university chief investment officers, which is sort of my crowd. How do we get them, again, to deploy their dollars?

This was when you were in the Obama administration?

And I got a voicemail from a headhunter. It was a headhunter who said, “Hi, my name is so-and-so. I’m from this firm. The ADL, their longtime chief executive, Abe Foxman, is retiring. We got your name. Would you be interested? Please give me a call back or if you would know someone, please call back.”

So I just get a lot of calls from headhunters, like I think a lot of people in these public-facing jobs at the White House. I don’t respond to most of them, but I responded. I called my wife, actually, when I got this call because two things. No. 1, I didn’t explain this, but when I was a senior at Tufts, I interned at the ADL office in Boston. My grandfather was a Holocaust survivor from Germany. The year before, while studying abroad, I’d visited the town where he was from. No Jews there anymore.

I came back to Tufts and said, “I want to do something.” I heard about this organization, the Anti-Defamation League. Talked my way into an internship. And then 10 years later when I moved out to LA, I didn’t really know anyone. I learned that a woman I had worked for at that Boston office had moved to the Los Angeles ADL office. So I called her and … She’s a Jewish mother, basically. She’s a Jewish mother. So you call a Jewish mother, you say, “I just moved to town.” She wants to …

Yeah, help you.

Yeah, help you. So she wants to feed you because she’s certain I’m emaciated because I’m living alone. And then she wants to set me up on a date. And so she did that. She set me up on a blind date, this woman, with one of the people who worked at the ADL office. And 17, 18 years later, my wife and I are still married.


So my wife worked there for seven years.

You got your wife through the ADL, you did an internship, and now your job.

So I got that call and I called my wife. I’m like, “Can you believe this? Abe Foxman’s retiring, they call me.” My wife said, “Oh, that would be a great job.” I said, “Oh, I think that would be a terrible job. You have to fight Nazis, and anti-Semites, and racists.” No. 2, I told her, “We’re going home to LA.” The plan was to do this then go back to California. It’d be a waste of my time. And thirdly, I also thought, Kara, I’m not qualified for the job. Look, I’ve never … I’m not a lawyer, I’m an MBA.

Right, which is a critical part of ADL.

Crucial. I don’t know anything about the civil rights agenda. I’ve never run a nonprofit organization. I’ve never worked in the Jewish community. Like I’m certainly not …

You’re perfect.

Yeah, exactly. So I thought, “She certainly is not really interested in me.” But you know what? What I thought was, “You know what, I’ll go talk to this woman — not because I want the job, because I don’t. I’m not even qualified. But the next CEO of ADL” — because I knew how important the organization was — “should be thinking about search, and social, and tech, and innovation, and income, and business.”

Because that’s what the Nazis are using.

That’s where the world was going. That’s right. So I took the interview on a lark think that, “Well, I can help shape the search and that will be my contribution.” And one thing led to another and I’m here.

But it’s interesting, because the ADL is such a storied organization. It feel like, even if this isn’t where I thought I would be, it’s a privilege to be here every day. And the issues matter more now.

Yeah. You sort of hit the timing here. Your timing is perfection, in a horrible way. So you took this job and you … Explain what the ADL does, for those that don’t know. There’s a number of organizations like it, but it’s a unique and important organization.

It is unique. So the ADL was founded in 1913 around the time that Leo Frank was lynched outside of Atlanta. It’s a famous story. Jewish man falsely accused of a crime, found guilty, sentenced to death, the governor commutes his sentence — because it clearly was a sham trial — to life imprisonment, the mob is so enraged they hang him from a tree. And the ADL was founded at that time when anti-Semitism is prevalent along with racism etc. And the founders create this organization and in their own words, they write a mission statement that the organization will “work to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

So that’s a very interesting mission statement, because 100 years ago, the Jews — again, not only was there pervasive anti-Semitism, quotas kept them out of many universities, customs kept them out of many professions …

They had to hide away.

Covenants didn’t let them live in many places, so they didn’t really have any of the political power, economic resources the community has today. They don’t really have a leg to stand on. So it was a bold proposition that they would be out for themselves, but also justice and fair treatment to all. Like again, based on … Their future was very uncertain. They were very weak. But they had this audacious — frankly it’s a very Jewish — idea, “We’ll fight for ourselves, but also fight for others.”

So over the next 100 years, they tore down a lot of those quotas, exposed a lot of those practices, they made America a better place for the Jewish community. And in the early ’50s, like in ’52, they filed an amicus brief in Brown v. Board of Education. Which was a bold, controversial thing to do. And they literally put people on those buses, the Freedom Rider buses, and they marched with Dr. King. And they stood up for the LGBTQ community in the ’80s. And I’ve heard these stories when people were afraid that gay men, you could catch AIDS from someone sneezing on you. The ADL stood up for them. And they stood up for immigrants in the ’50s. I could go on and on. They have a remarkable history.

Today, basically, the work continues to be inspired by that mission: Fighting for the Jewish community and for others. The ADL does three things: Advocacy, education and law enforcement. Advocacy is working to change laws through the courts or through Congress. Lobbying, filing amicus briefs, litigating to a degree.

So there’s strategic issues around that where you place your …

Exactly. Around protecting minorities, preserving the First Amendment.

No. 2, education. Long ago, they realized you can’t litigate or lobby your way out of hate. You have to change hearts and minds. Today, the ADL is one of the largest providers in the United States of anti-bias, anti-bullying, anti-hate content in schools. Our materials reach more than a million-and-a-half children every year. We literally cannot keep up with the demand.

No. 3, we work with law enforcement. We both help them investigate hate crimes …

Right, and focus on who needs to be focused on.

Focus. We have a whole research apparatus, our Center on Extremism focuses on researching the bad guys and we train police now to deal with hate and how to deal with extremism. We train 15,000 officers every year. More than any other NGO in the country. The FBI has made our training mandatory. The NYPD has made our training mandatory. So basically advocacy, education and law enforcement, those are the three things we do. We have a network of 26 offices across the country, field offices, that are like our channel, that sort of go to market and implement those programs locally in Seattle, or …

And presumably, you work with others like the Southern Poverty Law Center and others to try to chronicle what’s going on.

We work with the SPLC, for example, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum on some of that training for law enforcement and researching the bad guys. I was with Anthony Romero last week in the Bay Area. We work with ACLU a lot on First Amendment cases.

On the education front, we’re constantly partnering with groups like Facing History and working on the ground in school districts.

All right. We’re going to talk about what that means now, then. Here we are. You got here. It’s a really bad time now, all of a sudden. And so we’re going to talk about that and more, including the impact of tech on all of these problematic issues for the American public and the political scene right now, which is making it even worse.

We’re here with Jonathan Greenblatt. He is the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League here in D.C. That’s the headquarters there, correct?

No, we’re headquartered in Manhattan.


We have a big office here in D.C.

Excellent. We’re here with Jonathan Greenblatt. He’s the head of the Anti-Defamation League. It is an organization that fights for the rights of those that do not have them.


We’re here with Jonathan Greenblatt. He is the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. We’re talking about his background and how he got to this organization. And it’s very entrepreneurial. And it’s very tech-oriented, which is interesting because it’s a critical skill going forward.

Before we get to that, I want to talk about sort of the state of play right now. In the Trump administration, everything seems jacked up in the most horrible way at this point. And I want you to talk about why that is or what’s happening. What has happened in this country where it just seems like you have a lot to do?

Well, I’ll tell you. I mean, as a 501c3, we’re non-political, but I don’t think there’s anything partisan about fighting prejudice. And what we saw in the 2016 campaign was, you saw one particular candidate really stoke up …

Around immigrants.

Around Muslims, Mexicans and immigrants of all variety, issues, if you will, of tolerance and extremism. And we saw a mainstreaming along of sort of white nationalists into the room in a way we had not seen since George Wallace in the ’60s. Of course, George Wallace didn’t win the White House. And indeed, after the election day, in the last two months of 2016, you saw a massive spike in hate crimes and bias incidents directed at Jews, again Muslims, Mexicans and immigrants in general. And it was really very alarming. And this is the data. Again, there’s nothing political in pointing out the fact that that spike happened and it continued in the first half of this year.

We saw in the first half of 2017 a 76 percent increase in bias incidents against Jews compared to the first half of last year. Nearly 1,000 incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence. Just against Jews. When you add in the spike we’ve seen against Muslims and Mexicans, it’s really extremely alarming. So when we talk about, well, why are things jacked up?

It is difficult to explain why the president would choose to focus his Twitter feed more on NFL players demonstrating their First Amendment rights versus white supremacists who literally have murdered several people over the course of this year: An Indian immigrant in Kansas City; two innocent bystanders in Portland, Oregon; an African-American ROTC student right here in the D.C. area. It’s hard to understand how you can equivocate on the unequivocal.

All right. So let’s talk about why that has happened. Obviously it’s the permission, I guess, to do that. Or is it social media or what’s the … Let’s talk about sort of the … You don’t want to blame everything on Twitter, but in a lot of ways it’s created an atmosphere of hatred, really.

Well, let’s be honest. I think, first and foremost, leaders lead. And what gets said at the top trickles down. So I think if we try to understand the causality being ambiguous about calling out what seems to me pretty unambiguous, that creates the conditions in which extremism can really … they can feel emboldened.

Now, social media, Twitter in particular, helps to accelerate and amplify that. And so you see it as a bit of an echo chamber. And whether we want to talk about trolls, or we want to talk about sort of bots and cyborgs, or whatever the causality there, social media has become really this echo chamber where the things we hear from the top really reverberate and they resonate with parts of the community that, again, white supremacists, it isn’t that they haven’t been around, they’ve always been around. They have always been bigots, but they’ve had to literally convene in corn fields in the dead of night like in rural Iowa. Today, they’re out in the open, hiding behind the anonymity of a Reddit or a 4Chan and then using the social media ecosystem to push their memes out into Twitter and to the public.

So talk about how they do this because it’s something … and then I want to talk about how to fight that. How do you fight that or if it’s possible to even fight it? They finally get a voice, is what you’re talking about. The internet was started with the idea that everybody gets a voice now, isn’t this great for democracy? Isn’t this great for all people because there’s been gatekeepers, you know the whole … So talk about their success in using these and what that means.

I think one of the things that’s happened is these platforms like Facebook, like Twitter and many others, have emerged without the kind of filters and the sort of systems, the checks in the systems, that you have in broader parts in media like newspapers like we were talking about before we started taping or broadcast. The fact of the matter is, journalism as an industry has an ethos and people go to school for it. They get trained in it. There is not ethos on social media, right? And that creates the conditions in which you can get your message out very directly to people. And it plays into, again, we all have these cellphones in our hands which connect us directly into, like, the matrix.

So there’s no more breaks. There’s no more filters. That’s a big part of the problem. And they’ve learned. They’ve learned how to exploit that effectively. So we watched this during the 2016 campaign. We watched where — when I say we watched it, our Center on Extremism tracks the right-wing extremists, the left-wing radicals, we track all of them, and we could see things started in 8Chan or 4Chan or Reddit where a lot of these memes actually get developed. And we watched them send them out to particular voices on Twitter or DM them or send them privately, and then those voices consistently would start to propagate this stuff. And then people like the Trump campaign would pick it up and retweet it.

So you could see there was a through line between certain white supremacists and extremist accounts and how things ended up in the public domain. There’s nothing accidental about it, Kara. It was very intentional. It was very deliberate. And so part of the challenge becomes when, again, Twitter and Facebook, let’s be frank, they themselves can’t keep up with the technology. So one of the things we did last year with Google was we exposed the parentheses meme. Do you remember that?

Yes. Explain it for me.

So basically white supremacists wanted to identify Jews because they think the Jews are behind all the evils of the world. So they created this meme where they would put parentheses around the names of Jews to demonstrate how we “echo through history.” By the way, they would put it on Jews or people who they thought were Jewish and they built kind of a plugin for the Chrome browser so that you could — I guess it worked on Firefox, too — so you could pull up a website and if you have the plugin, the plugin would search for names on a webpage. And if a Jewish name showed up from a database or names they had previously identified and entered, it would put the parenthesis around it for you so you could easily identify the Jews in a news story for example. So it would say, “By (((Jake Tapper))).” “By (((Walt Mossberg))).”

So we identified that and we went to Google and we actually also went to Apple and got them to take it out of their stores. The plugin, basically. But I say this because these things get created and Google and Facebook and Twitter, they themselves can’t keep up with it.

They just put it up.

I mean, if you can imagine Facebook has a billion, I think it’s 1.7 billion.

It’s over two.

It’s over two billion members. So the last data I heard was more than 4.5 billion messages across the platform every day. And if you include WhatsApp, I mean the numbers are astounding. There is no way in God’s green Earth, no matter how many customer service reps Mark Zuckerberg hires, he could ever keep up with the torrent of information.

That it’s being perpetrated around. Especially the negative information. Okay. I still think it’s their fault. You know what I mean?

But it is, though, because …

Because I think one of the things they put out is one, they built systems where they didn’t anticipate this.

That’s right.

And two, they act like it’s a benign platform. I’ve been saying this a lot. They act like, “Oh, it’s a benign … it’s only for good.” And they don’t … I’ll never forget some Facebook executives talking about Facebook Live and I said, “When’s the first hate crime on it?” And they were like, “What are you talking about?” And I was like, “You haven’t thought about this? Like maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. Why haven’t you done enough?” You know what I mean? They just …

You and I both know that the Valley — I spent a lot of time in the Valley, so have you — there’s a Libertarian ethos there. A Libertarian ethos just like …

It’s a faux Libertarian. It’s not a really good one.

Well, it may be. Like a Thielian Libertarian ethos, right, where it’s like, “Anything goes, and it’ll be good, and just keep government away, and we’ll innovate our way to utopia.” And we both know that human nature doesn’t exactly necessarily work that way.

And we shouldn’t be surprised that extremists exploit new media. The Nazis did it with “Triumph of the Will” and using film as ways to propagandize. The Soviets did it with Pravda and using print media to kind of influence people. So we shouldn’t be surprised that extremists today try to terrorize and spread their own form of tyranny, to use that term again, through new media. Now with that said …

We shouldn’t be surprised, but they shouldn’t be either.

That’s the point. So the point is that look, for example, white supremacists could, if they chose to, decide to ask for a room in the Grand Hyatt in downtown D.C. But guess what, the manager of the Grand Hyatt’s going to say, “You know what, I don’t think it’s a great idea for me to rent our space to you because I don’t think it’ll send the right message to the rest of my patrons if five people with swastika arm bands walk goose-stepping through the lobby.” So by the same token, it’s fair to say that Facebook and Twitter and Google could do a better job of ensuring that they preserve freedom of speech, but they also protect the safety of all of their users.

They are trying to make inroads now. They realize they have a problem. And I’ll tell you a story. Last year with Twitter, I heard from people … you know, journalists, broadcast and print, who would interview me and then afterwards they would say, “I’m worried about the anti-Semitic abuse being launched at me.” I said, “What do you mean?” So we organized a task force to look at this last year and we pulled some sample Twitter data. We found millions and millions and millions of anti-Semitic messages. Tens of thousands of messages directed specifically at Jewish journalists. And when this story broke, Twitter initially wasn’t willing to listen to us. But if you remember how their M&A talks got derailed last year when Disney pulled back and Salesforce pulled back.

Derailed is a kind way of putting it.


Nobody wanted to buy them.

And part of the reason they said was concern about the liability on the platform. I think in part that was because of the report that we released. And so here’s what happened there. Twitter realized this is no longer a stakeholder issue, it’s actually a shareholder issue. And this is what my own experience in business …

Explain the difference between them.

A stakeholder issue is where a small group of activists expresses a concern and it’s a marginal issue and you deal with it out of the CSR office. It’s kind of nice to have. A shareholder issue is when you deal with it out of the investor relations office and it’s an absolute must because if your share price is going down, that suddenly gets the board’s attention and gets your shareholders’ attention in a different way.

So how do you — when you go out there since you do speak their language, you’ve been working with them — get their attention on this? Because I think this is a really critical issue, that they’re very slow to want to do anything about this. What is the reason for it, from your perspective? Because they see themselves as, again, benign and good people, which they are, not benign but good for sure. I mean, I don’t think they’re sitting there and thinking, “Ah, we’ll just let anything go that’s on my platform.” They’re definitely worried and concerned about it.

Yeah, I think … Look, at an individual level, I’ve been blessed to meet lots of executives. They’re absolutely good people. I think what happens is that when these things grow at a degree of scale, the individual’s kind of desires get overtaken by the board. And so what I think is that these companies now realize they’ve sort of crossed a Rubicon. They realize their size, and their penetration, and all segments of society now has the attention not only of journalists. Is it Farhad who’s been writing about, what did he call, the “Frightful Five” or something like that? He’s used that phrase for a while. Now regulators are looking at it. Aspiring politicians are looking at it. So suddenly it reminds me of the ’90s when they went after Microsoft.

Except in that case it was over monopoly. This is really tarnishing society.

Totally right. At some point, it reaches a critical mass and size that you get attention.

100 percent.

And I think, by the way, that Microsoft, it’s almost like a parable, what happened to them, and I think everyone in the Valley — why Google and Facebook have such huge offices out here. But I think they suddenly have tuned into the fact that they can no longer ignore this problem. I believe they ignored it before because of Libertarian ethos and because they all want user growth. One of the core metrics.

It goes against every user growth …


I talked about this about Twitter is that if they turn off the bullying perfectly, their user growth drops. But it’s already dropping. Because they create an atmosphere that is so vile and poisonous that user growth dies anyway. So it’s really kind of fascinating.

You’re probably right, but if you think about that investor relations deck, every quarter you want to have user growth going in the right direction. So anything that might put the brakes on that concerns an analyst who raises his hand or her hand and say, “Whoa. What’s going on here?”

So flash forward to today. We’ve now found they’re much more willing to work with us. Actually, we mentioned him already twice today, Pierre Omidyar, that I was at South By this past year and announced that we’re opening a new center on technology and society in Silicon Valley. Actually rolling it out next month in November in Palo Alto. Pierre gave us the seed capital to fund this thing. An Iranian American, never involved with ADL, but he cares deeply about free speech. He’s worried about fake news, he’s worried about kind of the cyber hate, so he gave us the seed capital. And the companies realize they’ve got to figure out ways to convene and work together.

I would liken it to sort of child pornography. Even copyright infringement. Where they’ve developed shared strategies …

Or spam. They were fast on that, right? They’re very fast on child pornography. So what is your office going to do out there? What is your goal?

In our first two years of working … When I came on board two years ago, I immediately cranked this up. We created a cyber hate working group. Many of the big companies work with us on it. And we’ve worked on things like terms of use and how to develop our terms of use or terms of service that will keep out … you have to allow for some degree of hate speech. Hate speech is free speech. Like it or not. You can say mean things. But hateful speech is different than harmful speech. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t like Jews,” and then to say, “I want to kill them all.” And it can be a bit of a gray line, I’ll acknowledge, but the First Amendment isn’t supposed to allow for harmful speech.

Or violent speech.

Or violent speech. Yeah. So with that said, just last week we announced we’re creating a … in fact, I’ll tell you a story. You saw this a few weeks ago, there were accounts about how folks were using the ad platforms, I think ProPublica broke this, the ad platforms to target Jews or target blacks.

I was going to ask you about that. Yeah.

So that broke on Thursday. On Friday, the head of Facebook’s policy group was in my office in New York and said, “How do we work together on this? We know we have a problem. What do we do?” Last week, we announced a new initiative under the rubric of this new center, we’re calling it the Problem Solving Lab. Here’s why it’s important. It’s not lawyers, it’s engineers. It’s not policy people, it’s product people.

So I think the way that we will really start to solve this problem is figuring out, again, shared strategies, technical approaches, and we’ve got Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook all convening to participate in this with product people. Because you go to build these solutions. You’re not, again, I think, going to lobby your way out of the problem.

I get that. But again, I want to get to … you’re being nice because you’re working with them. I like that you’re working with them, but why didn’t they … again, Libertarian doesn’t cover it for me. It’s something else that’s at work within the group. Either that or they see themselves as not impactful. I get exhausted by Google execs saying, “We’re such a small company.” You know what I mean?

I know. I know.

You know what I mean? I’m like, “Are you kidding?” Or Facebook news distribution. Everybody gets their news from Facebook and or Twitter and or … their impact, they don’t seem to want to acknowledge their impact.

A Libertarian ethos layered on top of an evolving business model, but let’s be honest, naivety. And whether that’s an intentional naivety like, “I’m going to cover my eyes,” or it’s an unintentional naivety, they don’t realize. But I think this thing has grown to a scale. It’s a bit like a Frankenstein’s monster. They don’t even realize what they’ve created.

And it dawns on them when the president of the company, a Jewish woman who publicly mourned the loss of her husband just a year or two ago suddenly sees literally like anti-Semites using her platform to find other like-minded people who want to kill Jews. I think that was a wake-up call for Sheryl Sandberg. I think it was a wake-up call for Mark Zuckerberg who, a week before, or maybe two weeks before, talked about Rosh Hashanah in a personal post on Facebook that he doesn’t do very often. And again, suddenly their platform’s been hijacked by haters.

So I think they realized that a Libertarian ethos and an uncertain business model are no longer excuses when extremists are running amok. So we’ve been working with Google through their Jigsaw division on their initiative called Perspective. Have you heard about this? So we’ve got the best data sets out there on anti-Semitism and bigotry because we’ve been tracking this stuff literally for a hundred years.

So I think AI and machine learning are important parts of how we tackle this problem. And I’ll give you an example. So I often get, if you look at my Twitter feed, it’s crazy. I’ve got horrible white supremacists tweeting at me, and anti-Israel people tweeting at me, and all kinds of stuff. It’s really great. So people will tweet a … So if I’m walking into Best Buy on a Sunday afternoon and I get tweeted a picture to me of an oven, that might be okay because maybe there’s a sale on Whirlpool ovens in aisle 12 or whatever. But when I’m sitting here in your studio and I get tweeted a picture of two ovens, double ovens, and it says, “Jewish bunk bed” on it, that’s probably not such a nice thing to send to me.

No. I wouldn’t even look at my Twitter if I were you.

Yeah, I don’t look at it very often for this reason. So if you used AI and you saw, “Ah, the person tweeting @Jgreenblatt, his name or whatever, its name is @WhiteGenocide, their twitter bio says, ‘I want to kill all the Jews,’” and you see that they’ve been flagged for messages before, and you see that they have none of the friends in common with me and other followers of me. There are lots of triggers that if we were using AI to effectively in nanoseconds, milliseconds monitor these kinds of things, you could instantly if not solve the problem you could mitigate it dramatically.

Right. We’re going to talk about solutions and what to do and some of the tactics that these extremist groups use with Jonathan Greenblatt. He’s the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. And increasingly, he’s going to have to focus on the tech solutions to these problems.


We’re here with Jonathan Greenblatt. He is the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. It’s been a fascinating discussion about how tech companies are dealing with the onslaught of extremism, that extremists are using online tools quite effectively and for organization, for spreading of hatred, spreading of their ethos. Talk about a few things that they do. Like you talked about the parentheses, but talk about some of the more egregious things recently.

Sure. Well, one of the things we’ve seen … we’ve seen different … So No. 1, on Twitter we’ve seen extremists specifically pursue journalists. So it’s a technique. They try to shut people down. They try to push people to self-censor themselves. And they do it by doxxing journalists.

Which is well known.

Which is well known. And so they’ll put up that information, so suddenly — if you’re the head of the ADL, you expect to get harassed on Twitter, but when you’re a freelance journalist writing for GQ, you don’t expect that your personal cellphone is going to start to ring with horrible messages or you’ll receive snail mail to your home saying, “We know where you live,” which is the kind of things that have happened repeatedly to journalists. So one of the techniques is to target journalists. And they did this during the campaign after they would write things about the Trump campaign. And use doxxing and sort of cyber bullying to try to shut them down.

The second thing that we’ve seen them do is really when someone does something questionable, just jam them with all kinds of messages. And I don’t know what the term for this is, but literally people see their Twitter feeds flooded with hateful messages. And they’re using cyborgs and bots to do that. Like no person can … The level of incoming I’m talking about is absolutely paralyzing.

And in terms of communicating with each other, what are the preferred areas? There’s Reddit, obviously.

Yeah. It’s sort of Reddit and 4Chan and 8Chan where they can be a little bit more hidden than on services like Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. We’ve also seen them move to services like Telegram and others that are — WhatsApp — that are harder to track, they’re more point to point versus many to many. And, you know, there was a piece in Wired last month that started to talk about this new kind of alt-right internet that they’re attempting to create. Like to recreate many of these services for their own community.

So they can talk … but I think what would have been a more effective thing is they’re not talking to each other, talk to a lot of people.

That’s their idea. So, you know what’s interesting about all of this? So what they’ve really tried to do, and I got to be honest, the campaign and then this presidency has given them a pathway forward to normalize. And this is what I think we need to be most worried about.

I agree.

Yeah, it’s not the Twitter handle @WhiteGenocide — as disgusting and revolting as that might be — it’s Richard Spencer who says …

Verified on Twitter.

Verified on Twitter. “I’m a free-speech advocate, so you should let me speak at your university. Or you should welcome me at your event.” Or people like Alex Jones who literally are fellow travelers with these people because they recycle their ridiculous conspiracy theories. And then suddenly the Megyn Kellys of the world interview them and give them an imprimatur of respectability.

The argument to me that you should hear what they’re saying, that you should hear the voices because the media tends to make it more benign than it should be. People should actually listen to what their actual words are.

I think that’s right. I think that was one of the … I would really give props to the folks at Vice for in Charlottesville in August, because what they didn’t do is glamorize these people. They just put the cameras on them and let you hear them say, “Jews will not replace us.” They put the cameras on them and let them say all these just absolutely revolting things.

Is that normalizing or let’s just show you what they’re like?

Well, so it’s interesting. There’s a fine line between normalizing or glamorizing these people. When you put Richard Spencer on without any context, you just interview him with his sort of short hair cut wearing like a suit and a polo shirt, you almost make him seem like he’s a respectable member of the intelligentsia.

When you layer in, though, some B roll of him doing the heil Hitler salute and saying the kind of outlandish things he says about Jews and African Americans and Mexican Americans, that’s when you expose his intolerance for what it is. So, yeah, look, we’re free-speech advocates at the ADL. We believe you got to expose this stuff in order to understand it. You got to hear them in order to grasp the threat that they represent, but it needs to be done in the clinical kind of way, not in a way that unintentionally or by the way intentionally elevates these people.

Right. Right. Exactly. It’s a difficult thing.

It is hard because we’re also in a media environment where we’re always looking for equivalence. Like I call it the “Crossfire effect.” You have to have someone on the right, you have to have someone from the left. Look, there’s not right and left around bigotry. And yeah, we need to be able to acknowledge that someone like …

Well, isn’t cable news built on that? I mean really. Honestly. I won’t go on any of those panels. I refuse. I’m not going to have someone who’s ignorant be on the other side of something.

Exactly, because what that essentially does is you anoint them as if they were a credible voice. And again, it’s not that we shouldn’t … look, you need to understand that people think there’s a flat earth. Usually people think there are aliens in Area 51.

They’re not? Okay.

But what we should accord those kind of conspiratorialists to the same place we should accord people …

Right. So Twitter this week got into a lot of trouble around Rose McGowan taking her off, talking about free speech. She did put up a phone number, but other people have — including Donald Trump — put up phone numbers, too. And they didn’t get kicked off. You can see this happening over … You can talk about this particular … but over and over again. And now Jack has tweeted he’s going to put up new rules and more new rules and rules of rules. And it seems utterly either just a lot of talking or ineffective. Either of which is pointless in some ways.

Well, look, I think we participate on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council and I think we’re the only civil rights group to do that. And they have definitely made, Twitter specifically, have made progress in the past year. They’ve introduced new things, some new tweaks to the product and the platform to, again, reduce the risk of some of this stuff blowing up in the way that it was doing a year ago.

But the Rose McGowan thing and the MeToo campaign just point out how complicated this is. And I would say, think about the newspaper industry for a minute or broadcast and news and media more generally, decades ago, generations ago, they introduced ombudsman. Much like federal agencies have inspector generals to provide some oversight and acknowledge with a little bit of humility that we need someone as a voice for the people or a voice for the public. It would seem like we’re in a moment today where these platforms and these large companies need ombudsman as well who can help to provide oversight and be a bit of a check and balance on the kind of bizdev groups, if you will, the investor relations groups who would say, “No, no, no. Just grow, just grow, just grow.” Responsible growth seems to be like a more sustainable strategy.

Which they don’t want to do. All right. I want to finish by talking about some of the things that you think you need to do as a group to get better at and what are the things you’re most worried about. And I want to focus on tech because a lot of this stuff will proliferate via tech. Is it VR? Is it … what kind of things are … machine learning? Or what are the things that you need to fight extremism and to, you’re never going to stamp it out I’d suspect, but what are the things that are critical for organizations like yours? And then what are the things you’re worried about?

If you think about the advocacy, education and law enforcement: No. 1, on the advocacy front, I’m definitely worried about the convergence of in a digital environment a traditional civil rights agenda. So what do we do when sort of big data gerrymands people, if you will, by class or by race or by religion? Even, not just unintentionally, invisibly because the things are being algorithmically served to us that we don’t even know.

Oh, yeah. Your race and what you look like. All the “I” stuff, all the … the other day, someone sent me something about an app that could tell if you’re gay and it’s like …

I heard about this. I heard about this.

Or anything. They could obviously do color, they could do racial facial characteristics.

So you could easily in a “Minority Report” sort of way serve up ads to people unbeknownst to them, they’re not seeing what other people are seeing. And again, digitally gerrymand folks in ways that constrain them from choices they don’t even know about. So I worry a lot about that on the advocacy front.

Were you worried about Apple’s facial recognition software that’s going into the phones?

We’re watching it closely. Again, I think we have to be vigilant about all of this. If we’re not vigilant about the rights that we have and the privilege we enjoy, we shouldn’t expect to keep them. So I think we need to look at all of these things very carefully, very cautiously.

You know, Tim Cook stepped up after Charlottesville and gave us a big seven-figure gift in support of the ADL for the first time ever. And yet again, Apple has an awful lot of control and an awful lot of …

It’s a big issue for him.

Think about … We have a Google Home in our … I have a Google Home.


But the privacy considerations with things like how is it monitoring what we’re saying. Is it really … There was a story that broke about the Google Mini last week, you probably saw that where it was actually recording everything that was being said at the viewer’s home.

By reporters. Oops.

Yeah, exactly. So advocacy is one thing.

I unplug mine.

Did you really?

I always unplug mine. All of them.

You unplug them when? When you don’t want to use them?

Yeah, I unplug them.


I cover my computer screen. I block them.

Yeah. You have to be wary.

I just block. I just don’t even know. That’s my plan. And then I’ll take it off when I want to use it and then I put it back on. It’s just a small little moment of victory for myself.

But I’ll tell you something. If you have kids, they love to interact with Siri or Google. They think she’s a person.

Well, not Siri. Siri’s not the smartest one in the group.

She’s going to be the student. The problem child.

She’s the problem child. So one is recognition …

Just to come back, so that’s that. So there’s a whole set of issues, a host of these things. And then of course I continue to worry about the normalization of extremism. And that shows up in the way that elements of the right, as we’ve been talking about, are trying to not only insert themselves, they are doing so.

Look what’s happened in the Austrian elections this past weekend. Look what’s happened in the European elections. And again, what’s happening right here. I worry about in 2020 and in 2022 you’re going to start to see slates of candidates who come from this kind of worldview. It will be very problematic, I think, for the public good.

And then I would be remiss if I didn’t point out there are issues on the left as well. Sort of rethinking free speech and clamping down on the way that ideas are allowed to circulate specifically on the campus, which is also crazy.

It is.

Like I might not agree with everything that Ben Shapiro has to say, but he has the right to say it. And we need to, again, protect the privileges that we have if we want to keep them.

Yeah, that is an unusual thing happening on these campuses.

It’s a real problem. It’s more prevalent than you probably realize. Where, again, in a world of microaggressions, in a world of … it starts to look a little bit like thought police.

On the education front, look, I think the anti-bias, anti-bullying work we do is critical. We need to work out how to digitize it, how to Kahn Academy it. How do you bring it to far more people than we can do with face-to-face training?

Are you getting help from Melania Trump on this?

I will leave that alone.

Just saying because that’s her thing, right?

I suppose it is.

And then thirdly I think on the law enforcement front, how do we use AR and VR to enhance training? We’ve been asked by several metropolitan police departments, big cities, to add to the work we do around training them on extremism and hate, to do intrinsic bias. Which is encouraging because we know there are real issues there.

So imagine if you could use virtual reality to put a police officer in the shoes of a young black male. What it feels like to be pulled over for “driving while black.” What it feels like to be a young Mexican national on the other side of an ICE kind of raid. And I think technology allows us to do really interesting things that would enhance our ability to help law enforcement.

So empathy via technology?

Empathy. And understand the communities they’re trying to serve.

Do you do anything around the taping of police officers? There’s some interesting stuff going on around language. They’re taping language and then showing how they talk to different people.

No, I haven’t seen that.

Yeah, it’s really interesting. It’s Oakland. So they’re taping versus just the body cams and so you can tell, the computers can tell what race they’re talking to.

Is that right?

By the words they choose. It’s very clear on the words they use for African Americans versus white people.

That’s interesting.

And it’s absolutely different. It’s data. You know what I mean?

So the last thing I want to talk about, we just have a few more minutes, is the idea of what data is. And you have all this data, people don’t care about actual facts. Pressed by, again, this administration this idea of fudging what facts are. Just today, there was lies said and then everyone’s now talking about not the lie, but whether it’s true. You know what I mean? Like you start to do that.

So how do you do that when you have all this data? What happens to … because one of the strengths presumably of ADL is data. This many assaults, this many this. I had a relative who there was some fact and I was like, “This is an actual piece of data.” “Well, so you say.” And I was like, “But it is.” You know what I mean? It was just like … it’s a fascinating thing. So you’re a company — not a company, an organization — that traffics in data that is critically important, and presumably new data initiatives would help you as you begin to really see patterns and where things are happening. How do you combat that when data isn’t data anymore?

Yeah, it’s very challenging to be in a post-fact society, where Stephen Colbert’s version of the truth seems to prevail. On both sides, by the way. ADL has always been an incredibly fact-driven organization. Data-driven, fact-based. And we are in an environment where people want their own facts. I think one of the things we need to do is to … let’s just acknowledge that data is just that. It’s numbers. And bits or ones and zeros. And they’re very hard to make any sense of until you contextualize them and embellish them with more information.

So we need stories to support and supplement the data. We need images to enhance kind of the ones and the zeros. So I think we’re going to have to find ways to — through visualization and through kind of the infographic and other techniques like that and videos etc. — to make things really come alive. So now we’re back to the VR piece we talked about just a minute ago.

I think VR could be very effective.

Incredibly powerful. So it’s one thing for me to say to you, “Okay, last year we saw 990 or this past year we saw 997 anti-Semitic incidences in the first half of the year.” It’s a whole nother thing if I could put you literally in the body of a 14-year-old when she is being harassed, when kids are throwing pennies at her at school or she walks back to her locker to find a swastika on it and you’re literally in that girl’s …

Seeing the experience as if you were that girl will make this come alive in a way that was never possible. And, you know, we have to acknowledge that these issues are real, and if we can find new ways to leverage the technology to transform those experiences and give you the actual, a degree of insight that just a piece of paper can’t, maybe that’s how we change this.

Yeah. Yeah. So last question. What would you like Silicon Valley to invent for you?

What would Silicon Valley invent for me?

To help your work.

I think there are probably a few things. I think it’s interesting …

Because you’re going to have to soon be defending cyborgs. Have you seen “Blade Runner 2049”?

I haven’t seen it yet. I think we’re going to see it this weekend.

It’s real long.

That’s what I heard. I heard it’s three hours.

Yeah, I just interviewed Jared Leto, who was in the movie.


Yeah, he plays a trillionaire.

They say a trillion is the new billion or something like that.

Apparently he’s really quite good. It was interesting because at one point, he was talking about … I was asking about robot rights, obviously, because eventually when these cyborgs start to really look human, they are human, or are they human or are they a new life form? And he’s a creator of a lot of these cyborgs and so this cyborg comes out of like a baggy almost, essentially, and drops down in a bunch of goo and stuff. And he’s been trying to get them to procreate. That’s what he’s been working on.

The cyborgs?

The cyborgs. Because there is one that it worked for and so he’s trying to replicate this to see if he can make more and more cyborgs more quickly. And so this particular cyborg it didn’t work with and so he kills her. Like just after this cyborg’s been birthed, essentially. With a knife, just kills her. And I said, “That was a super disturbing scene that you just discarded this creation that you made.” And he said, “It was like breaking my iPhone. That’s how I thought about it as an actor.” And he’s like, “You throw an iPhone against the wall because it didn’t work.” And I was like, “What?” It was a great way to think about how he was thinking about his character, but eventually that’s the kind of thing we’ll be thinking about.

Probably. I mean, these questions of consciousness really get raised and you start to try to think about …

Yeah, you will be defending … the ADL will be defending robots someday. Just get ready for it.

It’s interesting. It’s a brave new world.

Yeah, so what would you like them to do or make? What is the thing that you would … if you had an ask for these companies, Google, Facebook, Twitter, what would you want if they could do it? Besides a ton of money.

Well, I think I … So I guess I have a couple quick thoughts, one of which would be create … you should be able to sort of … it would be interesting, wouldn’t it, if you could sign up — I don’t want to call it a premium version, let’s say a clean version of a Facebook or Twitter. Like, look, we turned Showtime off of our cable package because I got little kids and it’s gross. The movies and it’s really bad stuff. But our kids can watch the Hallmark channel and they could see clean stuff. Now by the way it might not be a view into everything that society has to offer. It might not be the highest form of art, but you know for my kids it’s okay. So it would be interesting if you could create clean versions of these kind of social platforms.

I’ll tell you something else, from a design perspective, it’s very interesting. Did you see that Facebook acquired tbh the other day?

Yes, I did.

Yeah. Have you ever used tbh?


So it’s fascinating. It’s a fascinating app that is very popular with middle schoolers and high schoolers. And it basically, the parameters of it are you can poll on other kids, but only positive things. Only positive things. So it minimizes the kind of bullying dynamic that could be so prevalent on these apps. And so you start to realize if you embed in the design of your products, in the architecture of these platforms, a bias toward good.

So if I could ask for anything from Google and Facebook and Twitter, I would ask for that. A bias toward good. Now let’s acknowledge, it wouldn’t be perfect. There would be biases. We’d have to work them out. But if you started with the premise like, “I’m going to protect my IP. I want to protect the public interest. I want to create a bias toward good.” I think that would lift up all of us.

That’s called Instagram. You know, it’s interesting because some of the services, they are … Snapchat is a lot more pleasant place to be. They design it that way.

Yeah, so again I think it’s interesting now that you mention that. So if you think about Snapchat for a moment, it’s post-Twitter, if you will. And it’s designed with an eye toward a younger audience. Trying to create interactions that are more positive.

Or not negative, really. I don’t know if it’s necessarily positive because some of it’s silly.

Fair enough. That’s the point about bias toward good. It’s not negative. It’s not negative. And it kind of … it reduces the ability of someone to go in and hack it for the wrong reasons.

Yeah. That’s a really good point. 100 percent. That’s a great ask. That’s actually a great ask. I think they spend a lot of time designing for addiction, but that’s a different story. We had a great …

What’s that guy’s name? Tristan Harris?

Tristan Harris. Yeah, we had him at Code last year.

He’s so interesting.

He is. He used to design for Google.

Tristan Harris. That’s right. And he talks about the addiction and how these …

A slot machine for attention.

And how the feel you get, not just the kind of endorphins, but the feel you get from your finger when you touch your phone and you feel that. Or the sound of chimes. So think about if we could do a bias toward good that would again mitigate the harmful stuff.

So addiction for good? Fantastic. Jonathan, this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much for coming.

You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

Here with Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL. Can you tell people if they want donate where they want to go?

Go to

And anything they want to do to help or …

Anything. Look, there’s lots of ways we can use help. So go to to learn more.

And your office will be opening in two months in Silicon Valley?

Yep. Yep. We’ll be opening in a few months in Silicon Valley.

Where are you locating?

We’re working out the details now.

Okay, cool. That’ll be great. I’ll be there at your opening.

Thank you.

Recode – All