Craig Newmark. PHOTO: Cybercrime Magazine.

A Nerd’s Gotta Do What A Nerd’s Gotta Do

craigslist founder and billionaire philanthropist Craig Newmark is a major donor to fighting cybercrime

Alice Gillin

Quincy, Mass. – Sep. 17, 2021

Founded at the dawn of the commercial internet in 1995, craigslist is the dominant local classified ads site. From housing to jobs and pets to furniture, craigslist allows people to easily find what they’re looking for in a user interface that has barely changed since its launch.

In 2015, the site’s founder, Craig Newmark, created Craig Newmark Philanthropies, a private foundation funding charities supporting veterans, women in journalism and tech, and voter rights.

Hillarie McClure, a host on Cybercrime Radio, recently interviewed Newmark to gain his insights on fighting and preventing ransomware, and to learn more about his causes.

Fighting the Good Fight

Newmark’s organization recently donated $450,000 to the Institute for Security and Technology to support its ransomware task force. “Our country is under attack right now,” he said. “We all can play some role in defending the country from these attacks.” Ransomware is one of the largest cybersecurity threats, targeting anyone from individuals to entire businesses, and is predicted to cause over $20 billion in damages in 2021 alone.  “I’m lucky enough to have additional resources which I feel obliged to dedicate to the fight,” Newmark added. 

Cybercrime Radio: Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist

We need to work together to protect the country

Craig Newmark Philanthropies isn’t alone in its fight against ransomware, with the task force funded by a collection of philanthropists. “This has become an all-hands-on-deck thing,” Newmark explained. “Everyone who has a computer system or a phone is vulnerable to attacks on the internet. I want everyone to work together on this.” He continues to remain optimistic, however, citing the continued effort of government officials and fellow philanthropists he has worked with in the past.

The spread of misinformation is another obstacle the billionaire philanthropist is devoted to dismantling. Newmark is working to eliminate the harm caused by the viral spread of misinformation on social media, and having to do with elections. “Our adversaries are more dangerous by spreading disinformation and working with our allies in the U.S.” His philanthropic endeavors don’t end there. “One big effort I’m involved with is food security. That’s with all Americans, but with a focus on active service members and their families,” he said.

Working Against Trolls

73 percent of women journalists have experienced online abuse at some point in their career, according to a recent survey conducted by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with 20 percent of respondents reporting that they have been abused or attacked offline due to content they posted online.

Last week, the Coalition Against Online Violence announced a new online hub, filled with resources for those targeted by online harassment, especially women in journalism. The coalition, founded and funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, offers services such as one-on-one safety consultations and online courses, designed to equip online journalists with the ability to spot trolls and lessen the emotional and mental impact of targeted attacks.

Newmark teamed up with groups including the International Women’s Media Foundation and Pen America, a writer’s group, to create the resource hub. “Providing them with the means to help themselves is the first step,” Newmark explained. “No matter who you are, there are people who will attempt to commit online violence, and for the most part, we don’t have the resources to fight back.”

There’s a playful side to Newmark, who supports off-the-beaten-path foundations to entertain himself, such as Pigeon Rescue, though his focus is still on the larger issues.

Newmark concluded by saying “A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do” and reminding listeners how important it is to work together to fight misinformation, ransomware, and cyberattacks. “These efforts aren’t spectator fights; we’re all involved with this.”

Alice Gillin is a freelance writer covering the technology industry.