Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

A Silicon Valley titan is putting big money behind exploring his industry's broad societal impact: eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is backing the the newly-formed Center for Humane Technology as it elevates the debate about tech addiction.

Why it matters: Technology giants have long funded a wide range of non-profits and advocacy groups that share their viewpoints. Now money from an unlikely mix of sources is starting to flow to their critics as well, helping to stoke the "techlash" flames.

The details:

  • In September, the Omidyar Network gave a $300,000 short-term grant to what is now the Center for Humane Technology, run by former Googler Tristan Harris, to capitalize on the growing interest in the negative effects of tech products. The organization announced this month it's running a "Truth About Tech" advocacy campaign with media watchdog Common Sense.
  • “They’re looking to raise a much larger tranche of funding, which we are working with them to craft,” said Paula Goldman, who leads Omidyar’s Tech and Society Solutions Lab, which was unveiled last week. “There’s a lot of interest in what they’re doing."
  • Harris’ group has yet to achieve non-profit status, so they reached an arrangement with Reboot, the non-profit behind the National Day of Unplugging, to act as their “fiscal sponsor” so they could take tax-deductible donations as interest in their work grew among foundations, said Reboot Executive Director David Katznelson.

Common Sense, Harris’ partner in the Truth About Tech advocacy campaign, is already flush with cash. The organization listed more than $19 million in revenue in a 2015 tax document. Several recent donors have industry ties, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lynne and Marc Benioff.

Suggestions that the campaign uses airtime donated by to Common Cause by Comcast and AT&T’s DirecTV left the appearance of internet service providers feuding with the major web platforms, with whom they have sparred on policy issues in the past. But they say that's not the case:

  • Colby Zintl, a spokesperson for Common Sense, said that the donated airtime was going to broader initiatives on digital well-being, not specifically the subsidiary Truth About Tech campaign.
  • “Comcast has not donated any media or airtime to The Truth About Tech campaign,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokesperson for the cable giant, in a statement.

Where it stands: The Center for Humane Technology is in conversations with other organizations about funding, Goldman said, declining to provide details.

  • There’s been interest among both donors linked to the tech industry as well as more traditional philanthropies — something Goldman chalks up to Harris’ ability to speak to people in and out of Silicon Valley. “I’ve never seen this sort of situation before,” she said.

The bigger picture: Omidyar’s donations already go beyond the public health questions Harris is raising and, Goldman said, include not only her project but others within his broad philanthropic network.

  • "We think there's a need for a new norm across these tech companies as products are being designed and put out into the world to be able to predict these types of societal downsides and avoid them,” said Goldman.
  • Other philanthropic organizations are addressing these issues too. In September, the Knight Foundation announced a $2.5 million commitment to projects that address declining trust in media in the internet age.
    • “Internet is potentially the greatest democratizing tool in history, but it is also democracy’s greatest challenge,” said Alberto Ibargüen, the foundation’s president, at the time.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Several states report zero COVID deaths for the first time in months — CDC says schools should still universally require masks and physical distancing.
  2. Politics: New York to lift mask mandate for vaccinated people — CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift.
  3. Vaccines: Sanofi, GSK COVID vaccine shows strong immune response in phase 2 trials — Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects — 600,000 kids between 12 and 15 have received Pfizer dose since FDA authorization.
  4. Business: How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance — Delta to require all new employees be vaccinated — Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance.
  5. World: World's largest vaccine maker expects to resume exports by end of 2021 — Biden administration to send 20 million U.S.-authorized vaccine doses abroad.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Biden to waive sanctions on company in charge of Nord Stream 2

Angela Merkel (left) with Vladimir Putin. Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images

The Biden administration will waive sanctions on the corporate entity and CEO overseeing the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline into Germany, according to two sources briefed on the decision.

Why it matters: The decision indicates the Biden administration is not willing to compromise its relationship with Germany over this pipeline, and underscores the difficulties President Biden faces in matching actions to rhetoric on a tougher approach to Russia.

Prosecutor: Fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. was "justified"

Khalil Ferebee (C), the son of Andrew Brown Jr., and attorneys Bakari Sellers (L) and Harry Daniel (R) at a May 11 news conference in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A North Carolina prosecutor said Tuesday that the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man fatally shot by sheriff's deputies last month, was "tragic" but "justified," due to the immediate threat officers believed Brown posed.

Why it matters: The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into Brown's death. Police in Elizabeth City shot him five times, including in the back of his head, according to an independent autopsy report released by family attorneys last month.