Messaging app Blend’s CEO Akash Nigam announced Wednesday that the company’s chatbots would be blocked from sharing links to stories published on Breitbart News.
Nigam attempted to frame the decision as a move toward broader accountability for the news media shared on their site, telling The Wrap:
With all current events going on and conversations around real and fake media, we’re going to be examining sources of content that our Genies are sharing. We’ve decided as a team to eliminate Breitbart starting today.
Nigam grew up in Silicon Valley and is the son of Pavan Nigam, the cofounder of WebMD and a tech startup investor, according to a 2016 CNN Money profile.
The decision will keep Blend’s AI curators — dubbed “Genies” by the service — from recommending Breitbart News content. These Genies are advertised as “genius emojis that look and act just like you.” They are essentially chatbots that post content they think are relevant to users of Blend based on conversations through the app. Unless, of course, you happen to be a conservative.
Blend has attracted a number of celebrity investors recently, including NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, who gave $250,000 to the company in January of this year, as well as NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook. Thomas Tull, the liberal movie producer billionaire and former CEO of Legendary Entertainment, also invested $2 million in Blend last year and “will advise Blend on strategy and industry partnerships,” according to Variety. Tull also donated $1 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 presidential election.
Other investors include Base Ventures, BoxGroup, CAA Ventures, Compound, Digital Catalyst Fund, Foundation Capital, Galvanize Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Maveron, New Enterprise Associates, Red Sea Ventures, Saud Al Nowais, SparkLabs, SparkLabs Global Ventures, Trinity Ventures, Visionnaire Ventures, Waha Capital, and XG Ventures, according to Crunchbase, a database of tech startup companies.
Blend’s second most infamous user decision is the banning of 2,000 Ohio State University users — just because they are fans of the team’s Michigan rivals.
For its part, The Wrap repeated the tired refrain that Breitbart is “widely considered to be a platform for views held by the alt-right,” despite a Harvard/MIT study which concluded Breitbart News is not an alt-right website.
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