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The Rise Of "Medium Tech"
You have to hand it to GoFundMe. The donation platform just decisively proved that Big Tech doesn’t have a monopoly on radicalism. So does the next tier of Silicon Valley darling — call it “Medium Tech.”
GoFundMe made this fact clear when it suddenly seized $8 million that people had donated in support of the Canada trucker protest, known as the “Freedom Convoy.” Not only did the tech company refuse to give that money to the truckers, who were protesting heavy-handed pandemic mandates, but it then announced that it would give the money to other causes. Only after people angrily pointed out that they donated the money to the truckers did GoFundMe agree to refund them.
There’s only one possible explanation for these actions: An intolerant, extreme, and exclusionary worldview. GoFundMe is the same company that facilitated donations to groups like Antifa, which organizes riots, and the armed mob that captured an entire Seattle neighborhood and kicked out the police in 2020. It takes a special kind of radicalism to accept anarchy in the streets yet oppose civil disobedience by protesters who simply wanted to save their jobs and preserve their freedom.
And GoFundMe isn’t alone. Much of Medium Tech suffers from the same ideological extremism. While Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple draw the most attention for silencing people and imposing their views on society, scores of smaller tech companies do the same thing on a regular basis.
Take GoDaddy, the popular web hosting company. Last year, it refused to host a pro-life website that helped uphold a Texas law limiting abortions. Opposing abortion is a cardinal sin in Silicon Valley, and GoDaddy meted out punishment accordingly.
Then there’s MailChimp. After the 2020 election, the email service suspended the Northern Virginia Tea Party, which had the gall to hold a rally calling for election integrity. That, too, ran afoul of elite tech views, resulting in punitive measures.
The list of companies engaging in censorship continues, from payment processor Stripe to music streaming service Spotify. The widespread nature of this phenomenon proves that tech’s willingness to censor and suppress doesn’t stem from the size of a company. Big Tech, Medium Tech, it doesn’t matter: This problem affects virtually the entire industry, and it springs from a deeper source.
As a tech entrepreneur with experience in Silicon Valley and Seattle, I’ve seen that source firsthand. Tech companies recruit from increasingly radicalized universities, while setting up shop in increasingly radicalized cities. The result is an overpowering ideological uniformity that’s dead-set on its own rightness and dangerously hostile to disagreement.
Given the soil in which it’s planted, is there any wonder that so much of tech trends toward censorship and suppression, especially on matters of politics and culture? And given how powerful and dominant Silicon Valley and Seattle are in tech, is it any wonder that what starts there spreads industry-wide?
Americans deserve better. We need new tech – the kind that respects free speech, religious belief, individual liberty, human dignity, and broadly speaking, American ideals. And we need new tech leaders, from across the political spectrum, who will make that vision a reality.
That starts by moving tech beyond its current limitations, which means moving tech innovation outside the current radicalized hotspots. This process is underway, driven by a wide variety of people with diverse beliefs and backgrounds. From Elon Musk to Cathie Wood, from Oracle to HP, dozens if not hundreds of entrepreneurs and companies have moved from the West Coast to places like Texas and Florida. (My company is among them.) Setting up shop in more culturally varied and less ideologically uniform areas will encourage tech innovators to serve bigger audiences and respect broader views.
But we have a long way to go. I estimate that at least 80% of tech’s funding, innovation, and hiring still happens in those radicalized West Coast hubs. That needs to change, and fast. People of all political views agree that tech has major problems, yet there’s no chance of solving them if the same intolerant people keep building the same intolerant tech in the same intolerant places. Those of us who know that tech is heading in the wrong direction – whether conservative, liberal, or independent – must build new platforms, apps, and algorithms on a new foundation, nationwide.
The alternative is to let tech keep getting worse. It’s already happening with Big Tech. Now it’s happening with Medium Tech, too. How far down do we have to go before we get serious about solving tech’s problems – and disrupting this increasingly destructive industry?
Mr. Rex is founder and CEO of Rex, which builds and invests in tech companies.