Some founders talk about having passion for what they work on. For me, a better word might be desperation.
Online abuse has upturned my life many times, and completely changed the way I live. Yet despite its terrible reach, it seems no one is even really trying to solve it. It is profoundly infuriating that this problem disproportionately affects women, non-white people, and other marginalized communities, especially when we are trying to give voice to our expertise, opinions, lived experiences, and demands for a better society. In the end, the only thing I can do to try to fix the problem for myself is to build a company to try to fix it for everyone.
CONTENT WARNING: RACISM, MISOGYNY, PROFANITY
As a software engineer from Silicon Valley and a diversity activist in the tech industry, I also have a relatively rare and unusual perspective on how platforms and communities are built, including the ways and reasons they’ve fallen short. On the technical side, I’ve written code from the startup ground floor of three consumer web-scale platforms — Facebook, Pinterest, Quora; designed and built anti-harassment protections and moderation tools, with machine learning and without; as well as feed, search, and recommendation algorithms and features.
Sociologically, with a critical lens on the lack of representation and perspective on the teams building much of the technology underpinning the social web, I’ve seen and studied many failure modes in product development, as well as the lack of ethics and accountability and what the ramifications of that look like. (Ironically, it’s also been in doing this diversity work that I’ve built the online presence and platform that’s attracted so much of the harassment directed my way.)
I came to be working on Block Party because I couldn’t not try to do something to make the Internet usable again, to bring back its promise for everyone.
Online abuse and harassment is not just a personal pain point, it’s a problem where the damage clearly extends far across society, and I have a set of skills, experiences, insights, and networks that make it possible for me to approach solutions in a novel way.
Of course it’s also important to acknowledge that techno-solutionism is a fallacy, and tech alone will certainly not solve human problems. But when harms are wrought at world-wide scale by digital technology, fixing the same harms at scale will also require technology, and our mission with Block Party is to build the tools that empower people to take back control of their online experience.
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Block Party is proud to be backed by a diverse group of investors who bring important perspective and expertise to the problem we are solving. Our pre-seed round was led by Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures, and other notable investors include Alexia Bonatsos of Dream Machine, former journalist and co-editor in chief of TechCrunch; Ellen Pao, co-founder and CEO of Project Include, and former interim CEO at Reddit where she fought hard to clean up harassment on the site; and Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and former Chief Security Officer at Facebook.