The Technology 202: The Michigan kidnapping plot highlights Silicon Valley’s problem with extremism

Social media trails like these are becoming a recurrent feature in violent events ranging from synagogue massacres to bombing plots. 

“Before they become real, they percolate online, courtesy of a social media ecosystem that is ubiquitous, barely moderated and well suited to helping aggrieved people find each other,” my colleagues write. 

Experts in online extremism say the plot exposed by federal and state officials this week highlights the stakes for social media companies to address violent posts on their platform. 

“Social media companies have been allowing these communities to build and grow, ignoring the mounting evidence that memes, posts and images encouraging violence can and do translate into actual violence,” Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst and vice president of analysis for the Alethea Group, which tracks online threats, told my colleagues. “Not only have many of these Michigan pages and groups been on Facebook for years, the Facebook algorithm

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How the Coinbase memo exemplifies Silicon Valley’s current political crisis

Coinbase, the bitcoin bank valued at $8 billion and expected to go public in 2021, is going through an internal identity crisis.

It started back in June, amid the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, when Brian Armstrong, the company’s extremely introverted cofounder and CEO, was asked a question at an employee town hall about why Coinbase had not shown public support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Armstrong declined to give a clear answer, according to crypto news site The Block, and his avoidance resulted in a virtual walkout by “hundreds” of Coinbase’s 1,100 employees on June 3.

The next day, Armstrong tweeted, “I want to unequivocally say that Black Lives Matter.” He added: “I’ve been watching the events of the last few weeks unfold – I really did not know what to say about it for a long time, and I’m still not sure I

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Coinbase and Silicon Valley’s Losing War Against Politics

Illustration for article titled Silicon Valley Is Fighting a Losing War Against Politics

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Vanity Fair (Getty Images)

You’d be excused for not following the recent brouhaha associated with Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s announcement that the company would no longer play politics. The statement, posted to Medium on Sunday, is a doozy.

“In short, I want Coinbase to be laser focused on achieving its mission, because I believe that this is the way that we can have the biggest impact on the world. We will do this by playing as a championship team, focus on building, and being transparent about what our mission is and isn’t,” Armstrong wrote.

He rattled off a number of examples of this, culminating in something that gave many pause: “We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus.”

Armstrong’s post is a direct reaction to the Black Lives

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