Online entrepreneur and self-proclaimed nerd Craig Newmark envisions technology as a force for good.
At a talk in Barnard Hall on Thursday, the Craigslist founder emphasized social media’s potential to create positive impacts on society and discussed how this philosophy intersects with his latest venture, craigconnects.
The project aims to help nonprofit organizations—including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Women in Public Service Project—deploy social media to generate more attention for their work.
“In the short term, craigconnects is about identifying things that I believe in and then doing something about it,” Newmark said. “In the long run, what I'm doing also is learning how to use social media more effectively so that in 20 years I can help people across the globe.”
Newmark emphasized that craigconnects is not a grant-giving organization and that he does not see his role as a fundraiser.
“I'm a nerd, so in my case they call it the ‘nerd-in-residence program,’” he said.
Democratizing information is another focus of Newmark’s organization. In his position as a member of the Columbia Journalism Review’s Board of Overseers, he said that he believes "the press should be the immune system of democracy.”
“I want everyone on the planet to become within a couple of degrees of freedom and regular people to be connected with each other across the world with visions of a common good,” Newmark said.
Newmark, whose work is guided by a strong personal code, said he relies on intuition when choosing organizations to work with.
“I do something that feels right to me and then do it each and every day,” he said.
Emily-Anne Rigal, BC ’16 and founder of WeStopHate, a social media-based anti-bullying project, introduced Newmark at the event. She said she was impressed by the philanthropic focus of his work.
“The fact that he’s had so much success and could have gone so much further with Craigslist but instead he’s now doing something good out of that—I think that says a lot about him as a person,” Rigal said. “It means a lot that he would come here and use his voice for good.”
Robert Kuykendall, a graduate student in SEAS, said he enjoyed the event.
“I can now see why he went the way he did when so few people do,” he said. “Craigslist is sort of this weird website where they didn't go corporate and you always wonder why, but if you would have known him beforehand, you'd be like, ‘Oh yeah, of course.’”