May 2, 2024 - News

Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts takes on Google

Illustration of a hand in a suit pulling a shade down on a computer screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts has ventured into the tech arena.

Why it matters: Ricketts' company Freedom Fries LLC launched Freespoke in 2022 to take on big tech companies like Google. The search engine allows anonymous queries so users are not fed content and news based on past searches, as they are with Google.

Between the lines: Like Google, Freespoke serves up news from a variety of sources, but each story is labeled right, middle or left.

  • For example, the New York Post is labeled "right," the Associated Press "middle" and Axios "left."

How it works: Company president Kristin Jackson tells Axios the labels are based on how sites like Ad Fontes Media, Factcheck.org and Allsides.com have categorized news sources.

Yes, but: Ricketts, the only public investor in the Illinois-based company, is a regular donor to the Republican Party.

What they're saying: "It's not about one person. This is just about a technology platform that solves a human need," Jackson says. "It's not a political mission. It's a debate of ideas and shows information."

Case in point: Jackson compares it to the criticism about NPR skewing left because of past comments made by its CEO.

  • "They provide really quality information, and they really inform people, and it's from all perspectives, and then it doesn't really matter if one person at that company leans politically, one way or the other," Jackson notes.

Reality check: Freespoke labels NPR "left."

What's next: Freespoke is launching a $5/month premium, ad-free subscription that Jackson says will still manage to keep users anonymous through "data segregation."

  • The co-founder says it will take users' data only for customization on search results but will not store the rest.
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