Bill Ottman – Building a Community of Minds Against Free Speech Censorship (320)

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Bill Ottman is the co-founder and CEO of Minds, a decentralized social networking app with 6M+ users focused on censorship resistance, global dialogue, privacy, and creator monetization with both traditional payments and cryptocurrency. Unlike Facebook, which mines your data to target you with ads, Minds does not monetize its users’ data and offers people financial credits based on the content they share.  Bill is also the co-author of “The Censorship Effect.”

He has been interviewed twice on the Joe Rogan Experience in addition to NPR, Tucker Carlson Tonight, WIRED, Techcrunch, WSJ, NYTimes, Reuters, Guardian, Independent, Observer, Forbes, Economist, Barron’s, BBC, ABC, VentureBeat, Fox News, Quillette, The Next Web, CNET, Breitbart, Coindesk, The Pomp Podcast and dozens of other podcasts and media outlets. 

You won’t want to miss this fascinating episode!

To Learn More about Bill, please see the links below:

And now here’s Bill Ottman.

Full transcript below

Video on Building a Community of Minds Against Free Speech Censorship, With Bill Ottman

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Podcast with Bill Ottman. Building a Community of Minds Against Free Speech Censorship.


people, misinformation, content, befriends, ban, speech, talking, boycott, company, read, empathy, cancel, minds, hate speech, censorship, bill, offend, day, darrell davis, interesting


Mike Malatesta, Bill Ottman

Mike Malatesta  00:05

I want to welcome Bill Ottman to the podcast. 

Bill Ottman

Hey, thanks for having me. 

Mike Malatesta

Yeah, I’m, I’m really excited about this. I’m not exactly sure how we got connected. I think someone reached out to me on your behalf. And I was like Wow, this guy sounds kind of interesting. And then as I dug in, because I get a lot of those, you know, and it’s kind of like, everybody sounds interesting, you know. But as I dug in, I thought, this is a perfect opportunity to bring someone on the show who’s got, not only just A phenomenally interesting background, but also someone that is willing to talk about so many different things. And by the way, your bio is great. Like all the things you’re comfortable talking about. I love it, because I like to go in all kinds of directions as well. So anyway, I’m glad we got it together. Let me tell you a little bit about Bill. So you’ll get as excited as I am to have him on the show. So Bill Ottman is the co-founder and CEO of Minds. Is it Minds or I’ve seen both. Both. Both. Okay. A decentralized social network working out with 6 million-plus users focused on censorship resistance, global dialogue, privacy, and creator monetization with both traditional payments and cryptocurrency. I love that. He is also the co-author of the Censorship Effect, which is an analysis of the consequences of social media censorship, and a proposal for alternative moderation model. It has been, I mean, this guy has been everywhere. He’s been on Joe Rogan a couple of times. He’s been on NPR, Tucker Carlson. The list goes on and on. I mean, he is out there and if people want to explore, I watched a little bit of Joe exploring some stuff with you. It was very, very interesting. And people want to explore his story. And he wants to share, which I think is great. Here’s the thing that I find so interesting about his bio, it says some topics bill could touch on in the podcast include, and then it’s like a paragraph worth of different things, including stats, satire, comedy, art, misinformation, news, politics, social media. Open Education means Activision. It just goes on and on. And so we are in for a ride today. And Bill, I start every question podcast with the same question. That is, how’d it happen for you.

Bill Ottman  02:36

You know, it’s interesting. In the beginning, you said, like, topics that I’m comfortable talking about? And yeah, there’s definitely a wide variety. And I think that that is sort of how it happened for me, and that I realized, a while back, like, kind of when we were starting the, you know, the internet is sort of split, where you’ve got, like big tech platforms, mainstream social media. And then you’ve kind of got like, the dark web, you have more of the underground forums, and you know, more of like, the places where the more explicit stuff is. And it’s very much like, if you look at the top 100 sites on the internet, it’s sort of a weird mix of those, you’ve got all these mainstream sites, but then it’s like, porn site, or 4chan, or like, you know, huge kind of more subculture, but massively popular. And so it’s just fascinating to me that, like, you know, because the top 100 websites on the internet do, I think, represent humanity pretty well. These are the places where we spend our time. So I just sort of started realizing that there was this split on the internet, and in terms of speech, and that was odd to me. And it seems like, you know, there needs to be a place where, you know, we’re talking about everything and like, we have access to the full scope of information. And you know, access to information has really always been an essential part of, of who I am in, like, what I what I value. So I guess like mines is really like how it happened was that I knew we needed an open source transparent, like fully free speech, infrastructure, in order for humanity to like, do what it needs to do basically in order to solve our problems. So that’s kind of a long-winded way of saying it, but, you know, I feel like we need to be comfortable talking about Anything I mean, no topic is inherently off limits. It’s more so like how you talk about it? And like, what’s your intent behind how you talk about it?

Mike Malatesta  05:09

Yeah. So a couple things the, the top 100 website thing that was interesting to me. So it’s sort of top 100 websites have pretty much, uh, you know, represent humanity. You said, and I’m assuming that by that you meant both? Actually, I don’t even know if you would describe it this way. Would you describe it as good humanity and bad humanity? Or would you just describe it generally, as humanity you make, you know, you can make of that what you will?

Bill Ottman  05:39

Yeah, I mean, I think that all of humanity, you know, we all are good and bad. And I think that sort of where the culture war has come these days is like, it’s very much like people trying to say, Oh, you’re, you’re an evil person. You know, these people are good, these people are evil, you know, cast those evil people off the platforms. You know, they don’t deserve to speak. And I think that, that obviously, there are people who are more evil than others and aren’t, you know, definitely are in a darker place and have all kinds of issues, ideological issues. But what we’ve learned in terms of d radicalization, and what the pay what the censorship effect really looks at is all the peer reviewed evidence and empirical data on how when you censor people, that makes them more isolated, it actually leads to increased radicalization. We know that socialized social isolation causes depression, and can certainly cause people to become more reinforced in sort of their immediate echo chamber. So even though you think you’re doing the right thing by banning, you know, whether it be misinformation or hate speech or whatnot, you might that might be with good intentions, but actually, if you look at literally what’s happening, people are becoming more extreme after that happens. So the question is, okay, well, what do we do about it? You know, people like Darrell Davis, who co-wrote the paper with me, is, you know, he’s famous for D radicalizing hundreds of members of the kk k, he’s a black man. Yeah. And he befriends them. And well guess what I mean, that’s how you do it. You have to engage it head on, and you have to kind of have that empathy. And that humanity in order to, you know, you’re not going to force someone to change their mind, you have to just treat them like a human. And that’s, that’s the only way there’s any chance at having any kind of positive change. So this whole kind of status quo of just banish people who disagree with me like that, it just has to stop.

Mike Malatesta  08:14

Yeah. So before I dig into that a little bit more, I want to go back to Darrell Davis, because I heard Darrell on I think, Mike Rose podcasts are some podcasts. I’ve never heard of him before. And I haven’t heard of him since until I started researching, researching you. And that guy has an incredible story. I mean, you mentioned that, you know, he befriends KKK as a black man, but he doesn’t ever basically indulge them in what they do, or what they’ve chosen to do. It’s like, if I’m getting it right, he befriends them, but he doesn’t agree with them. And then he uses his friendship basically to try to show them that there is another side to the story, and that he has a person that they might be told, which really, this gets back to. I mean, oftentimes this stuff starts with what you’re told, right? Well, it’s not what you actually believe or you’re told something as a kid or you come up in a certain environment and that’s just the way it is. That’s your belief system. But he has his if you should, people listening should definitely look him up because his story was amazing. And it was just so so easy to listen to. I could imagine myself being one of those people that he’s talking to and, you know, seeing I could see myself sort of start to turn even though I have no belief system like those people just by listening to him. How did you meet him? Yeah,

Bill Ottman  09:53

I reached out. He headlined an event we did a few years back and I interviewed him. And that’s really how I mean, I was super inspired by his story. And we reached out and wanted to kind of partner with him. And like, our goal is to really like, bring his strategy to the digital world. Because he, you know, and he does a lot of work digitally. He’s constantly like chatting with extreme people and emailing. And a lot of change does happen through digital communications already, but he also will, like physically go and meet people. And so the question is, like, Well, okay, so if we know, basically, empirically, that Darryl can do this with a couple 100 people, like, that’s a big number for one person. You know, how can we scale that? How can we, how can we bring that to so that, you know, major social networks are like helping drive this? You know, imagine, you know, Facebook spend $10 billion, or however much on social media moderation. You know, they’re just doing ban ban, ban, Ban, ban ban ban? What if you had, you know, an army of mental health and like, kind of positive interventionists mental health specialists, and positive interventionists who were going around creating dialogue with, you know, people who were, you know, showing kind of extreme beliefs, it’s, it’s just a thought experiment to kind of like that is an alternative world that we could live in where major social networks, were actually participating in this proactive dialogue, as opposed to just shutting it down. And so yeah, I mean, that’s why we reached out and yeah, I mean, obviously, he doesn’t indulge them. Like he doesn’t befriend them. Like, hey, like, let’s go to the bar. And like, yeah, make fun of, well, he does go to a bar, but he’s not like, yeah, he, but he’s not trying to convince them. Like, the whole, the whole kind of psychology of it is that when you when you come at somebody too hard, saying like, you know, that, you know, I’m right, you’re wrong. It’s like people just shut down like, no one, even if they agree with you, they don’t want to be forced, like in the moment to change their mind. Like people need to think that they’re coming to these ideas on their own. And so he’ll just befriend people hang out with them, listen to their story, Hill, let them spew their nonsense, you know, into infinity. But there comes a point after they’ve spewed out all their nonsense. Where they, you know, they’ve said it all starts to sound like nonsense to them. Yeah, it started sound like nonsense me because he’s just sitting there being so reasonable listening. And then eventually, they asked him a question about him. And, you know, that can take a long time. But, uh, you know, a lot of a lot of people, you know, in any interaction you have, like, I mean, I’m sure, I’m curious your experience with this, but like, you know, if you’ve just met someone, and they’re just nonstop talking, and like, don’t ask you anything about you. It’s just like, Okay, well, I’m hanging out with a narcissist like. So that signal when someone who you know first asks you a question about you and your experience, like, that’s actually the breakthrough moment, where he starts to notice. And you know, I’ve been doing some of this myself as well, like, I’ll reach out to some, some more extreme people on mines and get dialogues going. And you know, some of them have been incredibly productive. So, yeah, I think that we’re just in this mode, socially, globally, where, you know, people are afraid to engage because of this, like guilt by association. But really, like, you cannot change someone’s mind, or people have no chance of changing their mind if you’re not even going to be able to communicate with them.

Mike Malatesta  14:02

Yeah, sure. And I definitely agree with you that as soon as you tell someone, you’re they’re wrong. I think it’s human nature to be like, Well, wait a second, you know, your wall, like immediately goes up. What do you mean, I’m, I’m wrong, I’m not wrong, you’re wrong, you know, and as you start playing, like a kid’s game, sort of back and forth. And I don’t feel like that’s very helpful. I wanted to ask you about, you know, you sort of intimated Facebook and maybe Twitter with their you know, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, right. So, and I’m wondering how much of that has been the result of them being public corporations where, you know, they have you there’s a lot of pressure on them, from government, from stakeholders and others about hey, you know, you have this thing out there, you need to police it, and I mean, you can’t have these people doing these kinds of things. As opposed to maybe what their natural inclination might be, which is similar to what you just you were just talking about, like, okay, hey, it’s a platform, people are free to use the platform. And you, I mean, really, when you get down to it, you need to invite into your life, someone that you think is, you know, hateful or whatever, they don’t charge their way. And just because they keystroke something onto the internet, what’s your feeling about that? Versus you with, with minds? Mindset calm as a private company that maybe doesn’t have some of those same things? Or am I? Sure, yeah, that’s

Bill Ottman  15:44

interesting. I mean, I think that public companies are still, you know, subject to the same laws that we are, generally speaking, it’s not, you know, if anything, I think a lot of the politicization, and, you know, kind of ideological censorship hurts their bottom line, you know, you look at I mean, you’re literally alienating if you’re gonna ban everybody who is posting a study about COVID, that may not be mainstream, or, you know, just go down the list of random kind of normal-ish people who are getting banned for some kind of insignificant offense. I mean, look, I want to clarify, like, we do ban people, like, we, we have a content policy, like people can’t go around making threats. It’s not just like, it’s not just total free for all, we have a whole kind of sensitivity filter system, so that explicit content, you know, isn’t being shown. And, you know, there’s strikes, which you get if you if you don’t plot, you know, flag your own content and self-label. And but, you know, I think that the international conversation is interesting, because, yeah, I mean, other countries, do have more strict laws than the US. And, you know, but this is kind of the debate that you hear, you know, you hear debates about, like Google building, you know, offering search in China, and stuff like that. And like, should they do that? Should, should Google build a censored version of Google so that they can enter the Chinese market? And, you know, we know that Google wants to do that. And there’s this whole dragonfly project, which, you know, is controversial, which, you know, they’ve been working on that, but they don’t want to do it, because they know that the backlash of actually doing that will be bad. Because, and that’s what’s fascinating. I think that people in the US are like, you know, they think about China and North Korea, and they say, oh, yeah, that’s, that’s too far. You know, they’re censoring people way too much over there, over there in China. But then meanwhile, you know, they’re sort of like, okay, with the version of censorship that we have in the US. And so there’s sort of, there’s this weird hippie hypocrisy there. And I think that I think that companies are real, I mean, Coinbase, for instance, just came out. I don’t know if you saw their statement about kind of D politicizing their company, and how they’re going to stay mission driven on crypto. Their CEO wrote this wrote this blog about how kind of social activism had started to become like a huge distraction within the company. And, you know, because there’s all these social causes, and I’m not trying to make a judgment call on all the, you know, the various social issues, but you know, every company doesn’t have to fight for every social issue that can become amazingly distracting for the company’s success, as well. So yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question, but I don’t there are no laws for public companies that would require them to take, you know, censor more information, right, necessarily.

Mike Malatesta  19:39

Yeah. And I guess I wasn’t sort of making it an obligatory thing. I was just thinking about the pressure. I was just coming from, you know, I’m thinking about this, like Zuckerberg up before the Senate, you know, and all these senators want to, you know, look like they’re doing something and there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with that. So I was just wondering, is

Bill Ottman  19:57

there an app I mean, that Yeah, that’s absolutely true. So, you know, COVID hits your Zuckerberg, you’re on the stand. And they’re saying there’s all this misinformation flowing through your network net elections are being influenced. And yeah, it’s very difficult to stand up to that. And say like, Listen, this is lawful content. And you know, we may put it into some sort of limited state, which is the type of answer that, that we would be comfortable with, like, you know, depending on you know, how sensitive is it could go behind a sensitivity filter, but misinformation is like, what does misinformation mean?

Mike Malatesta  20:47

Yeah, it depends on who’s it’s, it’s, it depends on who’s defining it. And it it’s a lot like science says, you know, misinformation is science says everything that people couch behind some unknown thing. And but they present it as if it’s a known thing.

Bill Ottman  21:08

Exactly. I mean, misinformation, obviously there. So you have misinformation disinformation, from what from what I’ve read, you know, disinformation is more intentional, malicious, spread, malicious content that like is kind of like knowingly being used to, you know, spread, to defame somebody or spread. Wrong, wrong information. misinformation is more like maybe unknowingly, people are just sharing stuff that is false. And so, you know, if you think about that, like you’re on the seas, some news article, just the headline is just served, she doesn’t really read it, she just shares it banned. You know, she made him she made a mistake. misinformation is like, why are people not allowed to be wrong? I mean, they need to be able to be wrong, you can’t expect like, just because somebody accidentally shares, you know, some clickbait article. What are you gonna do, you’re gonna take away their whole social media that they’ve been spending 10 years building up and so that they can run their little t shirt business. I mean, it’s, it’s insane. So I think that it’s not to say that there aren’t threats that exist with misinformation disinformation. But it’s such a blanket term, that anything can get thrown under in such a scary term, that, you know, let’s, let’s talk about what it actually means. And additionally, like, making the appeal process, like one thing that we’ve worked pretty hard on is our we have a jury system for our appeal process. So if a user thinks that we made a mistake, they can actually send an appeal. And then that goes to 12 active users so that our community can sort of hold us in check, in case we make mistakes. And, you know, I think it’s mostly about that, it’s not to say, Don’t ever take down content, it’s more so saying, like, have a have a fair process to you know, make sure that that that content really is, you know, over the over the line, in our case, we do think that the First Amendment is a battle tested line. I mean, why would a, you know, handful of lawyers at a social media company, be more competent than constructing a speech policy, then, you know, centuries of legal precedent in the United States, like, the legal precedent that exists around speech in the US is like, it’s, it’s, you know, battle tested, I mean, like, and the US is, I think, we can say, I would hope we could say, has, like, a lot of, you know, the freedom of speech that we have is valuable, and creates a healthy society. And you know, that freedom to disagree and that freedom to be wrong, or that freedom to offend. You know, even though we might not like it sometimes, you know, that is what you need freedom of speech for you like, you need it for the minority opinion for the controversial opinion. So, you know, that’s why the ACLU like traditionally would defend they came court, which kind of parallels the work that Darrell does when you get into this, this situation of oh, if it’s, you know, if it makes certain people uncomfortable, then it has to be taken down, like the place that that can take us is extremely dangerous. So I think that what Darrell teaches us is to invert our lens that we’re experiencing controversial content, or, or speech and like take that more empathetic approach. I mean, there was, there’s a study that came out recently, which I can just read you the headline quickly. It’s out of Stanford University. It’s called empathy based counter speech can reduce racist hate speech in a social media field experiment. So what this study did is, it said I’m just going to quickly read the abstract because it’s so close, it just came out earlier, like within the last year, so the abstract despite heightened awareness of the detrimental impact of hate speech on social media platforms, on affected communities and public discourse, there’s little consensus on approaches to mitigate. While content moderation either by governments or social media companies can curb online hostility. Such policies may suppress valuable as well as elicit speech and might disperse rather than reduce hate speech key phrase. As an alternative strategy. An increasing number of international and non-GM, nongovernmental organizations are employing counter speech to confront and reduce online hate speech. Despite their growing popularity, there’s scant experimental evidence on the effectiveness and design of counter speech strategies, modeling our interventions on current AI slash NGO practice, we randomly assigned English speaking Twitter users who have sent messages containing xenophobic or racist hate speech to one of three counter speech strategies, empathy, warning of consequences, and humor. So basically, you know, sometimes they would approach people who are being racist with empathy, sometimes they would approach them with a warning, and sometimes they would approach with humor. Our intention to treat analysis of 1300 50 Twitter Users shows that empathy based counter speech messages can increase the retrospective deletion of xenophobic hate speech by point two standard deviation and reduce the prospective creation of xenophobic hate speech over a four week follow up by one standard by point one standard. So that is amazing. I mean, first of all, they took these different positive, these different intervention approaches. And they found that the empathetic approach had the most impact. And I mean, look, this is the reality like Stanford University researchers are aware of the fact that banning content disperses it, it doesn’t mitigate it. And you know, so this is how the academics are, are approaching this.

Mike Malatesta  28:13

Yeah. Well, yeah. It makes it it makes so much sense. Because just as a human being right, empathy, when someone that has empathy for me, they’ve disarmed me. Like right away. Empathy disarms me. Now, it doesn’t may not change me, but it disarms me. And when I’m disarmed, I’m in a condition where I’m calmer, where I’m maybe willing to discuss where I don’t feel alienated, where I feel like I matter, you know, and all of these positive things, right? And if you want to get to me, that’s a great place to start. Start somewhere else.

Bill Ottman  28:53

Be nice, be kind. Wait, what?

Mike Malatesta  28:56

Yeah, what a concept, right? I don’t know that they needed to do that study. So I want to give thanks for sharing that I do want to get back to that thing that the example you used about, you know, sending on a headline that you read and being banned for that, in particular, because it struck me as very interesting that all of the platforms have a share or a retweet or something encouraging you to do just that. Right? For and not encouraging it because they expect that you believe in whatever you’re sharing they, they want it because they want other people to engage with whatever that that content is and stay on the platform. Right? That’s kind of why it’s there. Right. So that was an interesting example that you use, like, yeah, getting banned for that. I mean, that’s the whole purpose is to share stuff that you never knew didn’t read,

Bill Ottman  29:44

right? It’s like well, wait a second. Where does that go on Twitter? You put that button in front of me

Mike Malatesta  29:51

right now on purpose? Yes. For the explicit for the explicit reason that I used it like that’s what exactly the behavior you want it right Yeah, I mean, same as the light, right, I let you know people go through and they like, like, like, like, like, they don’t even look they like. So it’s not Yeah, that’s a really really terrible trap to put somebody in where you can, you can get banned or something like that and you also use the word offend. And I wanted to dig into that a little bit with you because I have this opinion that you as a person can’t offend me only I can invite to, I can invite you I can I can, I can be offended by you only if I invite you, into me. Like, you can’t offend me on your own, because you’re just saying something, or you’re doing something or whatever that I may or may not agree with. But as far as actually being offended, that’s something I need to invite into my life. And I want to, I’d like to know how you think about that?

Bill Ottman  30:52

Absolutely. It’s completely true. And it gets back to that sort of lens that we’re, whether we’re doing social media, or any kind of social interaction. I mean, some random person comes up to you and insults you like, that is your decision, if you’re gonna let that into your consciousness and let that kind of dictate your feeling about yourself. You know, you can approach like the empathy, the empathetic approach to people who are trying to offend you, is so helpful, because you’re looking at all of this through more of a frame of mental health. So you know, your own mental health, and their mental health, somebody who’s just like, a bigot on the internet, or somebody who you’re, you know, in a social situation with and is just, you know, a total jerk, like, that’s ultimately the place that I like to be at. I can’t I’m not always able to do this, but, you know, feel sorry for them. I mean, they have issues, if that is how they’re behaving. So

Mike Malatesta  32:12

if you if you feel

Bill Ottman  32:15

that empathy for them, because they’re clearly struggling, you know, they’re probably depressed or, you know, have their own mental issues, which is what’s causing them to, whether it’s racist, to just be a jerk, in general. That is a very useful exercise for me, whether it’s, you know, engaging digitally or physically, to just maintaining my own sanity.

Mike Malatesta  32:39

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, to me, too, that as soon as you engage, as soon as you choose to engage in a way, that’s not maybe looking to be empathetic, or whatever, you’re, you’re basically empowering the person, you’re basically transferring power from you to the person that they see. It says the choice, it’s like, the same choices being offended, you know, you’re making a choice to, to bring relevance and, and, and power to them. I just don’t get it.

Bill Ottman  33:08

Yeah, yeah. And I think that, you know, the times when we do let ourselves get offended, it’s, you know, yeah, it is us sort of agreeing with their interpretation. And so, you know, the, the times when I’ll let it get to me, sometimes is, like, ultimately, the, I think the best, you know, you don’t want to read the comments too much. I mean, people will, you know, because then you’re just giving them more mental real estate. So, you know, reading through all the feedback, taking it with a grain of salt and then, you know, if a couple of the comments get to you, let it be for the reason not that it’s just because they said something mean, and it’s getting to you, but like, you’re you okay, you I’ll see a grain of truth in what they’re saying. And like, I want feedback about myself as well. And so I might, I might take that, you know, I want to be open to feedback, but you know, not to the point where it’s just going to take over all my mental real estate and and make me depressed.

Mike Malatesta  34:21

Yeah, that’s a great point because it’s not you know, there could be some truth in what someone says that right. And you can be big enough to accept that without being and you can you know, without being without it, you know, doing permanent damage, even if that are non-permanent damage, but more damage than you. It deserves, I guess. So. If so, you grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut, as I understand it. My wife’s from Rowahton. You’re probably

Bill Ottman  34:54

no way in school. Oh, you did.

Mike Malatesta  34:57

Okay. So did she, and then Brian McMahon High School. So what I’m wondering what has happened along the way? You mentioned early on that you’ve all been, you know, always interested in access and transparency and, and, and maybe even taking that to a further degree. And I’m wondering what, what if anything happened along the way to you, that got you that may have dismission for you. Particularly, the free speech, the inner banning the transparency, the, the, the user as the product, you know, and all of these things that you care about, I mean, did what happened?

Bill Ottman  35:48

I think that when, so, I went to University of Vermont, and we, you know, if I became very much like, an activist up there definitely got into a lot of social causes was like doing antiwar protests, and, you know, working on divestment campaigns at the university to get them to, like, pull their money out of weapons manufacturers, which, oddly, most universities are invested in. But, so, in Burlington, Vermont, everything is very, like, local, it’s all about local food, it’s all you know, people are very focused on, you know, organic lifestyle, and, you know, where do they vote with your dollars type, attitude, right. And that had a pretty significant impact on me. And I, because I think voting with your dollars is just such a true statement. It’s such a true philosophy. You know, you can yell and scream about all of the issues that that you want. But at the end of the day, what actually changes things is when, you know, large groups of people start moving the resources around and strategic ways, and either removing resources from corrupt places, and then, you know, putting them towards whatever it is that is doing it, right. And I basically apply that digitally. And I uncovered kind of the whole open-source movement, the whole privacy movement, the cyber punks, and how online, you have this split between, you know, closed source surveillance software, and open source ethical software. And you’ve in so you’ve got, you know, an easy example for people is like, brave, or Firefox browsers versus you know, Safari, and you use these tools every day. But what does that do, like when you load up your computer, and you just let Apple or Microsoft dictate the tools that you’re using every day? You are just their agent, you’re just working on behalf of them kind of mindlessly, and you’re feeding them? And um, you know, most people have no idea about this. They’re just like, Oh, I got my computer, oh, Safari is preloaded, or Microsoft Edge is preloaded, okay, yes, I’ll use those browsers. But actually, all you have to do, you know, you can easily download a different browser, and from then on, you know, the 100 times a day that you check your browser, you’re then feeding it to a company that is doing things right and actually doing things in support of the community and you know, not abusing people. So it’s, it’s relatively easy to make that shift and be funneling all of your energy every day on your phone and on your computer towards companies that are acting on, you know, for the benefit of humanity rather than just extracting value. So I kind of made that connection between the vote with your dollars like locally up in Vermont, with you know, how the world is using the internet because the internet is so powerful and is going to be a huge part in changing the world for better for the better, but like, yeah, so I’ve really just been focused on spreading that message in minds is, is just an example of that. Like, you can use mines. You know, not even to say you have to give up big tech and Facebook and Twitter and Google but like You know, add that into your sort of diet online, like add alternatives in. Like, it’s not just saying never use Google Chrome. But like, use brave once in a while not to say never use, you know, YouTube and Facebook, obviously, you’re probably going to sometimes but minimize it when you only when you have to and, you know, use, use DuckDuckGo to do some searches, like because those search queries, empower that company to, you know, kind of protect the planet more. So, yeah.

Mike Malatesta  40:35

Well, you brought up something very interesting, first of all, mentioned that our zoom is on a brave browser, right. So I do have that going. And I think one of the things that you that you mentioned, and I don’t know if this is what you mean by open source versus closed source, but people don’t, I think the average person 99, maybe 95, out of 100 have no understanding of how much information using Google, for example, and I use Google, sometimes you can’t get a website to perform on brave, you have to go to, you know, Chrome or something, but how much information they you’re agreeing in terms and terms and conditions, or use terms or whatever to provide them to have access to like, I ended up going to a VPN, because I went to a presentation, and this guy just scared the crap out of me, Bill about all the stuff that not only all this stuff that they’re taking, or have access to, but all the ways that people can get to you. In a bad way. And like, like, for example, people don’t understand, like, when you use Gmail, or something like that, everything that you send, including all your attachments, all that stuff, you’ve given them access to that material, right. So and, and, and nobody cares about it until they care till something happens. And then you’re like, What did I do? Yeah, that’s a really, that’s a really big issue. I’m glad you brought that up. Yeah.

Bill Ottman  42:14

The whole Oh, you know, I have nothing to hide. So I don’t care type attitude is extremely common. And it’s sort of just an excuse to, you know, take the easy path. But a lot, but the people who say, I don’t have anything to hide, so I don’t care. I don’t think it’s actually a sincere statement. Because if they didn’t have anything to hide, well, then why aren’t they you know, publishing all their text messages? I mean, like, why aren’t they inviting people into all of their private information? Or like, why do they lock their door of their house? Like, people say that, but they do have things that they probably don’t want getting out there? And also, like, just like you said, you don’t know when you’re going to need it. So like Snowden says that just because, you know, saying, saying, I don’t need privacy, because I have nothing to hide. It’s like saying, I don’t need free speech. Because, you know, I have nothing to say it’s like, you don’t, most people aren’t out there on the street corners like blasting, you know, they’re all their thoughts for the sake of free speech. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want the theoretical ability to have that right when they may need it.

Mike Malatesta  43:43

Yeah. So this, this idea for mine started, perk percolating was 2011 or so though, is that the timeframe? Right on that

Bill Ottman  43:56

we’re in what Yeah, kind of after I graduated from college, we were doing these events called gathering of the minds. And we they would be sort of a hybrid public forum slash music festival. And, you know, we would kind of hold them in city parks and different venues. And we did some at the university and they were great. But they just weren’t really scaling as much as I wanted them to, you know, live events are really challenging as well. And so, yeah, we just kind of took to the internet to, to kind of generate the dialogue and actually we held an event. Another live event just in June recently at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. We had Darrell Davis, Cornel West, Tulsi Gabbard, Ben Burgas, Tim Poole, James O’Keefe, Seth Dillon, the Babylon Bee, Destiny. He’s like a popular gamer debate YouTuber, Winston Marshall from Mumford and Sons who had been like, kind of had to leave the band because of some controversial, it wasn’t even very controversial. But anyway, he had to leave the band because he said something that I guess other his fans didn’t like, and a bunch of a bunch of other really interesting, Coleman Hughes. And so just people across the political spectrum on the left and the right. And then we had stand-up comedians, as well in between each act to kind of lighten it up. You know, just trying to keep that face-to-face dialogue happening, because we do want to be generating, that we don’t want to lose touch with the real world. And I think that people are much more willing to be human in person than through a screen. So yeah, it was it was really great. And some amazing conversations came out of it. And I think that that’s what we’re seeing is just that, you know, I mean, look what’s happening with podcasting. Like, what we’re doing right now. I mean, I find myself I’ll just, I’ll watch like five hours, or listen to five hours of podcasts a day, sometimes, it’s just what the long form model is so much better for, you know, really getting to know what someone’s about what their intentions are, you know, the whole kind of legacy media, little short bursts, like flashy headline, shallow analysis, it’s just over like, you don’t learn anything from that.

Mike Malatesta  46:46

Right? I completely agree. In fact, I don’t listen to any of those podcasts anymore. The short ones, because all they are the all that there’s time for is someone like you, Bill to come on. And tell me something that you that you’re programmed to tell, and you tell it all the time, it’s like your thing that you just do doo doo doo, and there’s never any chance to get behind it. Like, why do you do that? Why does it make sense for me to listen to you? You know, all of those kinds of things? And I just,

Bill Ottman  47:20

you need that time? Absolutely. And like, even, I’ll be honest, like, even on long form, because, you know, we all have our things that we do. Like, I really appreciate you like digging deeper and like understanding like, Well, why, like, where did this come from? Like, you know, let’s like keep peeling back. Because, you know, sometimes I’ll do shows. And even if it’s like an hour or something, I’ll be like, Wow, did I really even say anything new? Like, or did I just kind of go through my normal story without kind of getting deeper? And so you do need to make deliberate effort to find that, that unique content, particularly with people who are podcasting all the time? Yeah, so it takes deliberate effort to dive deeper.

Mike Malatesta  48:13

So square this one up for me, you talked about your experience at University of Vermont, and that was very good, what you said about, you know, getting people to, you know, vote with their dollars, right? vote with your dollars. So, when you start impacting someone, economically, they admit a match they notice, right. Then you mentioned that the fellow from mumper. And it made me think, how do you and this whole thing and then with the with the freedom of speech, how do you think about or square up Cancel culture like, because it seems like, you know, with the vote for your dollars, that’s sort of a cancel culture type thing. Like, hey, we’re going to, you know, we’re going to impact you which is you might not call that cancer voice. Yeah. Boycott. Yeah. Which seems to me like the same kind of the same thing. And I wonder how you like, that’s a weird thing. That’s all the things I’ve heard. That’s a weird thing to squirt. Yes. Where Absolutely that’s

Bill Ottman  49:21

it’s like there’s a weird paradox about it. And I’ve thought about this exact thing like isn’t boycotting basically canceled culture or you know, voting with your dollars type mindset and I think like anyone who says that you know, oh, you know, you can’t boycott because that’s canceled culture. Like that’s going too far in like the anti-cancel culture. direction. I think that people should people are subject to consequences for what they do. And I don’t think that, you know, also, just because you boycott a company, doesn’t mean that you never give that company a chance to redeem themselves. Like, I wouldn’t be willing to boycott a company and still carry-on dialogue and potentially stopped boycotting them. So, a lot of it has to do with Is there a path to redemption? You know, are you? Are you completely like eliminating them from the realm of forgiveness? Or are you just kind of taking a stance, saying, Look, I’m not going to, I’m not going to feed you resources anymore, but I’ll still talk to you. So I think that there’s more nuance to it, I’m not anti-cancel culture in every sense. If someone deserves the consequence, they should get that consequence. But it This isn’t like blood sports, like we shouldn’t just be trying to like decimate somebody into the ground. We should have the long-term goal of transformation.

Mike Malatesta  51:19

So let’s talk about that a little bit. Because as you were saying that I think it Okay, so different types of things lead to efforts to cancel someone. So I immediately for whatever reason, I thought of Louie CK, right? People like people like Louis, who get into situations that with behavior that is inappropriate, let’s just put it that way. versus people who just say something. And I don’t know what this Mumford fellow said, but people who just say something that to get back to our earlier discussion is said to offend people. So there wasn’t any behave. There wasn’t any deviant or weird behavior or law broken or anything like that. That’s still the result was similar to you. Is that what you were saying? In terms of what you feel could be justified, cancel versus unjustified, cancel or help me understand better?

Bill Ottman  52:19

Oh, you know, I think that the calls to sort of cancel somebody, I think the tolerance is way. Kind of unbalanced, like people are getting called out. And you know, even like Dave Chappelle got D platformed. From, you know, a venue, I think it was in Minnesota recently. It’s like, that canceled culture, as it’s commonly understood these days, I think has absolutely gone way too far. And it’s and it’s just so much more extreme. It’s like they’re trying to assassinate the person’s character. And, as opposed to just address the issue, that the specific issue that’s at hand and, you know, trying to resolve it. So, like in the Mumford case, it was totally benign, like he posted that he had just read Andy nose book, and you know, is like the Portland journalist who, like, covers Antifa, and stuff like that. He posted that he read it and you know, his book, and then suddenly, oh, my God, you know, he wrote a book that, you know, I disagree with the author, like, how could he? And, you know, so that’s just, that’s absurd. People who actually have

Mike Malatesta  53:47

you know, I don’t

Bill Ottman  53:49

the Louis thing is, is interesting, because it’s very, it’s definitely inappropriate, but it’s also like, sort of this, like, a certain type of gray area, which I think is why he’s like, come back on the scene. And people have been accepting to that, which I think is is a good thing that he’s being sort of accepted back. But then, you know, in like Harvey Weinstein type situation like, yeah, like, That guy needs to go to jail, probably. So but that doesn’t again, mean that Harvey Weinstein isn’t a human and shouldn’t be treated as such. And hopefully, like, he can change as well. Like, I think most people just want Harvey’s next slide. Which is that’s just like, not healthy. That’s not helpful.

Mike Malatesta  54:38

Right? You bring up a good point, but by the way, he so he got fired from the band because he said that he liked a book.

Bill Ottman  54:46

He didn’t get fired. But basically what happened is there was so much sort of backlash from the community that he felt so uncomfortable With like how the rest of the band felt, and he didn’t want to put them into, you know, two different I think that they didn’t overtly kick them out, but they were all super uncomfortable and so he sort of like, stepped away. So it was this immense social pressure that he felt and he didn’t want to hurt his bandmates. I personally think that they should not have let him leave, you know, for him to say, Listen, guys, this is causing too much heat for the band. I’m going to step away from a second that’s fine for him to say that’s honestly like, honorable. They should have been like, No, dude, like, we’re gonna get through this your core band member, but you know, they didn’t. And things I guess seem okay. And, you know, that’s how it happened. But yeah, it’s it’s intense. I mean, you know, he’s, he’s their, their lead guitarist, and,

Mike Malatesta  55:55

yeah, well, it made me wonder like, but getting back to the boycott thing, like, Was it really that he, you know, said that he read this book? Or did that start to have an economic impact on the band? Because sponsors or venues or whatever, like, I’m trying to think like, oh, everything gets back to money, you know. All right. So we’re with you. But as soon as it starts hitting our Well,

Bill Ottman  56:19

I don’t think that it reached that point, I would have, I would have to touch base with them. I don’t think that they were getting like, kind of, you know, deep platformed or anything, but I think there was just a lot of concern from the fans. And, you know, maybe that could have potentially had an economic impact. I don’t know. But I would imagine there’s also an economic impact to him leaving so i

Mike Malatesta  56:45

Sure, yeah. Yeah. Good point. Yeah, just to be I wasn’t like trying to narrow in on what you know about that specific situation. I was just kind of thinking in general, does it always come back to money, like when it starts to hit the wallet, that’s when that’s when you get to be a little bit shaky on whether you’re supporting someone because they’re just saying what they believe he can get a little shaky, then

Bill Ottman  57:11

I think that the the interesting thing with like, advertisers like that’s a common tactic recently is like, Okay, if there’s someone with wrong think you got a mob who goes after the advertisers and sponsors and Okay, yeah, like they’re doing, they’re taking the boycott approach. But I, I think that the world we have, it’s a big world, you know, there’s a lot of people on the left and the right. And there are a lot of companies that are run by people on the left and the right. So for YouTube, for instance, to say like, oh, you know, we’re going to D monetize all this content. Because it’s, you know, not advertiser friendly. Well, what does that really mean? Because let’s take a popular example. Steven Crowder, who runs like, you know, he has a huge conservative talk show. He got demonetized, on YouTube for a while, I’m not sure if he’s still as demonetized. He may or may not be, but he certainly was for a long time. And, you know, they’re all huge companies, maybe a lot of them are conservative-type companies, or run by conservative people who want to advertise on him. So regardless of what YouTube says, he has an extremely popular show, which a lot of people like maybe some people don’t like, but this whole, like advertiser friendly meme that’s going around. That’s assuming that all advertisers are thinking about their marketing politically. Like, for instance, like a computer company. Why do they necessarily care if they’re advertising on top of, you know, really conservative news or really progressive news? They’re trying to sell computers, everybody needs a computer. So it’s like, advertiser friendly, is just like, I don’t even think that it’s accurate praise. It’s almost a misleading phrase, because it’s actually what it should be is, you know, political advertiser, this is not friendly to advertisers, who are only targeting certain type of content. I mean, that didn’t come out. Right. But like, you know what, you see what I’m saying? Right? I do. Yeah.

Mike Malatesta  59:38

So I’m gonna wrap it up here, but I want to you’ve released from what I’ve read, you’ve got six plus million users, maybe it’s higher now from you’ve had a couple rounds of funding, like 10 $16 million worth of funding something like that, give or take, I don’t know if I’m right there. And I’m wondering, were wondering a couple of things. Where are you going with Mines? Where do you want it to go? Does it change things for you? And your co-founders, your co-founder, your brother?

Bill Ottman  1:00:16

He, my brother is our CFO, and he is a co-founder. Okay,

Mike Malatesta  1:00:21

yeah. Okay. So I’m wondering where, where you see this going, what you want people to do? And I’m also wondering now that you’re, you know, you’ve got investors, does it change anything for you?

Bill Ottman  1:00:35

Well, we’re very fortunate with our investors that, you know, particularly with our series B with this group called Futo,, which is a tech Freedom Organization, which is really, like, passionate about our philosophy. And so they’re not like a VC. They’re, you know, really trying to build sovereign freedom respecting technology. So that’s a blessing that we’ve that we’ve linked up with them. And, you know, what we’re trying to do is sort of like, in this conversation, we’ve been talking a lot about, you know, the controversial stuff. Sure, I will say that it’s only a small percentage of the content on mind that’s even like that, like for the most part, you know, our biggest communities are like, gaming communities, our communities, music, you know, journalists, you’ll stop normal stuff. Yeah. So it’s like, we like, it’s funny that conversations often get dominated by this, because it’s sort of a hot topic. And it is a very unique approach that we take. But yeah, so that’s important context. But also, like, we are trying to decentralize our infrastructure, which may be nerdy to people listening, or like, they might not even know what that means. But at the end of the day, we don’t want to be the middleman, and the gatekeepers, between people and their, and their social media. So like, the issue is that if you get banned from Twitter, or Facebook or YouTube, you’re losing the followers and identity and content that you’ve been working on for years, you know, so they control your identity. But where we really want to get to is a place where you own and control your identity. And if some platform, you know, whether or not they ban, you, even if you just want to leave, you can take your followers, and identity and content with you, that’s portable, you know, with you, and you know, the content. And the social graph can be stored on an underlying decentralized protocol, not in some data center of Facebook’s. So that’s what we’re starting to achieve. And you know, we didn’t really get too much into crypto, but a lot of it has to do with cryptographic keys, where you have these key these public keys. And that’s sort of your identity, it’s like your, you can still have a username and whatnot. But this idea of a key, which signs different content, to attest that it’s your content. And then when you follow somebody, you’re also using a cryptographic signature. And so you have this key pair. And then you have all the things that you’ve either created or followed all of those signatures create this sort of web of you, which is your stuff and the thing and the other users that you care about. And ultimately want to get to a place where, you know, there are common open protocols so that you can pop between mines and whatever other network and, and there’s interoperability between them and so that your you, you own your stuff more, and, you know, we’re making really good progress on it. So architecturally, that’s where we want to go. And then otherwise, I would just say that we’re really focused on creators and helping creators get more reach and, and revenue. And we’re, we have really cool tools, you know, so anyone out there listening, like, whether or not you’re a big creator, small creator, like you know, it, you can, a lot of people will get more reach on Mines, particularly small creators, then they get on Twitter and Facebook, because our community is just more creator focused. There’s more, you can earn tokens and then tokens can be used to boost your content, or we don’t have any weird algorithms. So, you know, we’re just trying to put creators first at the end of the day.

Mike Malatesta  1:04:50

Okay. Well, I’ve downloaded the app. did that this morning, and I’m planning dice to join and sign up because I’m username If I haven’t joined yet, I’ve asked you to you go, you just I just downloaded the app. Yeah, I got to, I have to join. I’ll shoot you a note on my username. And then I encourage people to check it out. Because these things we’ve been talking to talking about, even though we didn’t spend a ton of time on what we just did at the end here, there are these are really important things. And if you want to express yourself and own your content, and have it be portable, and not be the product, you know, have your stuff be the product. This is a this is this is this is something that needs to be out there for sure. Just like brave and DuckDuckGo, and some of these other things that need to be out there. So Phil, I thank you so much for creating this. And coming on the podcast to talk about it and all the other things we talked about. I appreciate that as well. The Jordan, you your email is simple, right? So it’s just

Bill Ottman  1:06:00

Hit me up. Hit me up people. If you want to find me on Mines, it’s ott ma n. And yeah, hit me up. Tag me. I’ll share a help boost your content. And yeah, look, look forward to keeping the conversation going.

Mike Malatesta  1:06:19

Alright, sounds good. I’m gonna be there. Bill. Thanks so much for being on the show. Cheers. Okay, this is the intro for the bill. I’m in Episode 321. Everybody, just a sneak peek here. I’ve got Bill Altman on the show today. And I think you’re gonna love this one. We talked about a whole bunch of stuff. The top 10 Why the Top 10 Top 100 websites are going to start over again. Three to one. Coming up on how to happen Podcast. Today. I’ve got Bill Altman on the show. Bill’s been everywhere. He’s the co-founder of decentralized social media platform called minds. And we talked about the top 100 websites and why they’re representative of humanity pretty well. We talk about why he co-founded minds why empathy works with a special shout out to Darrell Davis. And we talked about the connection between boycotts and canceled culture and a whole lot more. So I think you’re gonna love this one. Enjoy

Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta

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