Tech Founder’s Innovation to Combat Online Violence Fizzles as Big Tech Loses Interest

In a surprising turn of events, a technological solution aimed at curbing violence against women in online dating, initially embraced by Silicon Valley for positive publicity, is now struggling as the tech giants lose interest. The nonprofit, Garbo, founded to provide a novel online background check balancing privacy and protection, faced challenges and threats from bad actors, leading to the termination of its partnership with a leading online dating platform.

In 2017, as part of a push to address online harm, Big Tech ventured into the trust and safety (T&S) industry, anticipating a substantial market worth up to $20 billion annually by 2024. However, recent developments reveal a significant reversal in Silicon Valley’s commitment to T&S, with purges, workforce reductions, and budget cuts across various platforms.

Garbo’s innovative technology aimed to offer an affordable means of checking individuals’ histories for potential harm. Despite initial partnerships with online platforms, these collaborations soured once the platforms received positive press and regulatory relief. The decision to discontinue the technology was influenced by threats from malicious actors, challenges with public records, and the broader issue of underinvestment in trust and safety by online platforms.

Beyond the tech-related challenges, the article highlights three interconnected issues contributing to the persistence of gender-based violence in the digital age. Firstly, the difficulty in accessing information about individuals convicted of violent offenses due to cost and evolving public record laws. Secondly, the longstanding problem of underreporting by victims, leading to a lack of investigation and prosecution. Lastly, the reluctance of tech companies to invest in the infrastructure needed to assist victims or address root issues.

The article emphasizes the need for nationwide reform to address gender-based violence, proposing a unified reporting system, updates to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and limitations on fees for accessing public records. The call for accountability and standardization aims to empower survivors and prevent bad actors from causing further harm.

While some lawmakers, like Congresswoman Annie Kuster and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, have taken notice and initiated efforts to protect individuals on dating apps, the article contends that true reform is essential. Until systemic changes are implemented, the responsibility for protection remains with individual users.

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