a middle-aged man with a goatee and glasses sets at a laptop, his face illuminated by its screen
Craig Newmark, the billionaire philanthropist and founder of Craigslist. (Photo/Norm Levin)

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark pledges $50M to combat cyberattacks

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Craig Newmark, the Jewish founder of Craigslist, has pledged more than $50 million to combat the rising threat of cyberattacks.

Newmark, 69, announced via statement on April 12 that his grantmaking foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, had already begun distributing some of the funds to organizations supporting digital security.

Groups including Black Girls Hack, Girls Who Code and the Stanford Internet Observatory have been awarded $30 million. An additional $20 million will be donated over the next year.

Organizations in the new funding round include Consumer Reports’ Digital Lab, the Global Cyber Alliance, and the Ransomware Task Force at the Institute of Security and Technology.

With the grants, the foundation aims to bolster “cyber civil defense” in support of national and global web security. Funds will be spent on digital education; on advancing career opportunities in cybersecurity for “everyone, regardless of background”; on the development of new tools and services to protect people and businesses; and for measures to improve usability and customer service on security tools.

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“American and Western democracy are at risk,” Newmark said in the statement. “As individuals, we’re also under attack. We need to work together to protect each other and democratic ideals in the digital world.”

Considered a growing threat and a top priority for the Biden administration, cyberattacks have already proven consequential in American politics and business. A Russian hack on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign became a turning point during the 2016 election. In 2014, North Korea successfully hacked Sony Pictures in retaliation for a film that disparaged Kim Jong-un, and in 2017 the “WannaCry” ransomware hack, also said to be the work of North Korea, crippled hundreds of thousands of computers in 150 countries, including that of Britain’s National Health Service.

During the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia attempted to bring down Ukraine’s power grid, according to multiple reports, a potentially devastating attack that proved unsuccessful.

Newmark, whose net worth hovers around $1 billion, according to Forbes, is retired from Craigslist and devotes much of his time to philanthropy. His efforts have focused on, among other areas of concern, fighting antisemitism, combating hunger, caring for military veterans, and supporting initiatives that protect democracy, including journalism.

In the Jewish world, Newmark has given $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, donates to the New York-based Jewish news website the Forward, and in recent years has become one of the largest individual donors to J. The Jewish News of Northern California.